Military Scientists Developing New 3-D Printing Applications

With the advent of cheaper printers and better software, the military’s use of 3-D printing is skyrocketing. Scientists and officials involved in the services’ efforts believe that troops may one day be able to make fully-functional printed objects even while on the battlefield or onboard a ship.

Creating printed models, prototypes or simple replacement parts is only the tip of the iceberg, they said. The services are experimenting with new substances and processes that could yield entire 3-D printed systems that have circuits, power storage and logic embedded in the object itself — although the fielding of such items is decades away.

“My dream is that we could print a micro-air vehicle … [including] the electrical circuitry, the battery and everything in that micro-air vehicle, just take it out of the printer and operate it remotely,” said Jaret Riddick, leader of the Army Research Laboratory’s structural integrity and durability team in the vehicle technology directorate. He keeps a small unmanned aircraft on his desk to remind himself of that goal. … (Read more)