3D Printing Central to Future Military Strategy
Kyle Maxey posted on February 03, 2014 |
A new 3D printing production paradigm could slash costs and make the military more effective.

3d printing, UAV, military, drones, robot, assembly line, futureA recently presented paper outlines how 3D printing, robotic assembly lines and airborne drones will become the cornerstone of future military production.

Co-authored by Ben Fitzgerald and Dr. Aaron Martin, both experts in the field of strategic planning and security, the paper describes how additive manufacturing can shift today’s military procurement paradigm.

Currently, the US military is faced with a huge problem. New systems take decades to develop, face massive cost over-runs and often aren’t adaptable to changing strategic needs.

To solve this problem Fitzgerald proposes that the military adopt additive manufacturing as a way to accelerate the development and procurement process. As the paper’s authors see it, 3D printers offer the military three distinct advantages over traditional manufacturing:

Part Consolidation: Using AM technologies, many parts that traditionally required assembly of subcomponents can be built as a single component.

•Topology Optimization: AM offers a new opportunity to reconsider the features of a given component. Software allows engineers to reduce the amount of materials used to build a component while also offering opportunities to select and vary material properties throughout a part.

Tooling Reduction: AM processes permit rapid and flexible fabrication of parts from a common production machine that could allow for significant reduction of tooling to build and assemble parts.

Leveraging these benefits, the military could shift its focus away from manned systems and increase production of advanced UAVs, which are unconstrained by the limits of human physiology.

3d printing, UAV, military, drones, robot, assembly line, future
To further the futuristic nature of his concept, Fitzgerald, who has helped guide the officers in massive Pentagon war games, suggests that a 3D printing/UAV production process should be further automated through the use of robotic assembly lines.

Through the combination of these three systems, Fitzgerald believes the military could create a weapon development and production infrastructure that can extend its advantage on the battlefield.

While it’s obvious that today’s incarnation of 3D printing isn’t mature enough to plug into Fitzgerald’s new paradigm, improvement in the technology is moving forward rapidly. With key 3D patents beginning to expire, and more industries coming around to the technology, it might not be long before the military begins testing Fitzgerald’s strategy.

Image Courtesy of the Center for New American Security

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