The United States military is developing its own version of a 3D printer which it can use to produce space parts for spacecraft or even one day, produce parts behind the front line in a war zone.
The US Army embarked on this project to produce its very own 3D printer because commercial devices are too expensive. It is hoped that by putting 3D printers behind the front line it can produce spares more cheaply but also quicker than it can get them from manufacturers.
Early versions of a printer cost $695 (Â£436) compared to $3,000 (Â£1,880) for a commercial model.
The 3D printer has been developed by the Future Warfare centre at the US Armyâs Space and Missile Defence Command (SMDC) in Alabama.
3D printers and printers that form objects by melting and shaping plastic into a specific designed which it gets from a data file. The use of such printers are rapidly increasing and becoming more and more common as many engineering and research firms will use them for rapid prototyping of devices.
“The ability to replicate parts quickly and cheaply is a huge benefit to the warfighter,” said D Shannon Berry, an operations research analyst at the Future Warfare office, in a statement. It is hoped that eventually, the printer will find a bigger role within overseas US forces personnel.
“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,” he said.
The key reason for producing the printer, said Mr Berry, was to produce cheap spare parts for the sensitive instruments it develops. SMDC systems are typically deployed only in space but prototypes are slowly being tested terrestrially on drones and small aircraft.
Sounds like a gadget for the future! Do you think this will help lower the prices of 3D printers and help them become even more commercially available? Let us know below or on our Facebook page.