3D printing on the frontline

It seems a technology becomes legit when the US army starts to invest in it. Well, 3D printing, your time has come to shine to “enable soldiers to quickly and cheaply produce spare parts for their weapons and equipment”. Just like there used to be soldiers dedicated to carrying communication equipment, we will soon have poor souls carrying 3D printers.

“Parts for [sensitive equipment like GPS or drones] break frequently, and many of them are produced overseas, so there’s a long lead time for replacement parts. […] Instead of needing a massive manufacturing logistics chain, a device that generates replacement parts is now small and light enough to be easily carried in a backpack or on a truck.” […]

The 3D printers are now being rolled out to the frontline in shipping containers that act as mobile production labs. The first of the $2.8m labs, which contains 3D printers and CNC machines to make parts from aluminium, plastic and steel, was sent to Afghanistan in July this year. While there are no plans to print weapons from scratch, the labs could produce spare parts to repair them, according to Pete Newell, head of the US army’s Rapid Equipping Force.


The day weapons can be printed is coming sooner rather than later (a 3D printed gun was already successfully fired), and then we will be hit again by an old truth: “technology is a double edged sword”.



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