Army Researchers Hack 3D Printer to Build Ceramic Body Armor
Kyle Maxey posted on August 01, 2019 |
Image Courtesy of Kevin Whiteman via Wikipedia

Image Courtesy of Kevin Whiteman via Wikipedia

Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) have developed a method for 3D printing ceramic body armor that could lead to more efficient procurement and better protection for troops.

Over the last decade, ceramic body armor has become the gold standard for protecting troops from ballistic threats. Not only are ceramics hard; they’re also light, meaning they can stop a bullet while not adding too much weight to a soldier’s gear. The problem with ceramic body armor is that it can be difficult to manufacture, especially if it’s being impregnated with other materials to create a composite.

However, Joshua Pelz, a materials science and engineering doctoral candidate at the University of California, San Diego has developed a method to 3D print multi-material ceramics by hacking his 3D printer.

According to ARL, Pelz was able to manufacture composite ceramics by using “two syringes containing distinct, viscous ceramic slurries [that were] connected to a custom-made auger and print head.” With this setup, Pelz was able to take “advantage of his computer programming skills to hack into the 3D printer, tricking it into using its own fan controls to manipulate the ratio of materials being printed.”

While Pelz’s design for 3D-printed body armor still exists solely in the lab, he recognizes that the underlying technology could be very useful for the military and others.

“3D printing and additive manufacturing generally gives someone the ability to really design and create anything they want. It’s a very quick process from thinking up a design, modeling that design, and actually producing that design.”

For its part, the military could use 3D printing to create lightweight ceramic armor that is not only effective at stopping projectiles but also custom built for each soldier’s frame. If that type of production scheme could be implemented in the field, body armor procurement could potentially be streamlined by eliminating wasteful spending on surplus armor that doesn’t fit soldiers in the field.

Source: The National Interest


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