“Now we’re coupling our rocket motor hypersonic experience with our warhead design experience to design a warhead that can survive at high speeds, high temperatures, when you’re going that fast…Right now we’re spending our own [internal research and development] to position ourselves to play when the customer comes around and says, ‘Have this need in this large set. How can you help me?’ And so it just helps us with our suite of capabilities to answer questions once we have that demonstration in hand.”
The warhead went from idea to test in a whirlwind 60 days, and the company estimates that this timeframe is approximately six weeks shorter than it would have been had they had to rely on traditional manufacturing methods. Orbital ATK’s Program Manager, Richard Truitt, was at the test site to observe the blast and spoke with Defense News about the advantages provided through 3D printing:
In addition to shaving off time in the development of such a warhead, the use of additive manufacturing technology would most likely also lead to a reduction in the cost to create such a device, both in terms of the human hours of labor and in terms of the reduced quantities of waste created by a shift from subtractive production. Some would argue that the benefits aren’t only in cost and time, however, but also in terms of positioning in the global arms race. The Defense Department clearly views the development of hypersonic weaponry as a priority, as it has increased the budget for research and development in this area significantly each year for the last two years. The positioning of the US in terms of hypersonic weaponry was described by Physicist and Co-Director of the Carnegie Institute’s Nuclear Policy Program, James Acton:
“We are really happy to do this test with additive manufactured parts because it’s going to tell us, does that actually function the way a normal component would…It’s too early to say it’s going to match our model, but it’s what we were expecting…If you walk around it, you will see it’s not a cylinder, it’s got some really complicated dimensions. Getting that part in that dimension in a very short time is nearly impossible.”
“Experts often argue the United States is behind in this technology because Russia and China appear to be testing more frequently. This is true, but in many ways, the United States is running a different race from Russia and China. So US goals are much more demanding that Russian and Chinese goals.”
But in his mind, this is not a reason to feel satisfied as he believes there are signs that Russia has or is working to achieve hypersonic weapons capacity, something which presents a “new and potentially very significant security threat to the United States and its allies…as..such weapons would allow Russia to threaten, with non-nuclear warheads, targets in Europe and eventually the continental United States.” In response to this potential threat, the Navy developed and tested a hypersonic weapon that would allow them to hit a target at any location around the globe in less than 60 minutes. The Pentagon’s Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Michael Griffin, said that the creation of hypersonic capabilities for the military is the “highest technical priority.” In early 2016, Orbital ATK successfully tested a 3D printed hypersonic engine combustor.
What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts; join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.[Source: Defense News]
You May Also Like
U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory: 3D Printing Customized Ear Plugs for Soldiers
Researchers JR Stefanson and William Ahroon recently completed a study for the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, releasing their findings in ‘Evaluation of Custom Hearing Protection Fabricated from Digital Ear...
On-Demand Surgical Retractor 3D Printed by the U.S. Air Force
The U.S. Department of Defense is using even more of its mind-boggling budget on additive manufacturing (AM) for virtual inventory and on-demand spare parts. This time, the world’s most dangerous...
West Point: Bioprinting for Soldiers in the Battlefield
Last summer, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Jason Barnhill traveled to an undisclosed desert location in Africa with a ruggedized 3D printer and other basic supplies that could be used to...
Australian Army Enters 3D Printing Pilot Program, Partnering with SPEE3D & CDU
3D printing will soon be assisting members of the military in Australia, as a 12-month pilot training program has begun in a $1.5 million partnership with SPEE3D and Charles Darwin...
View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.