We already know that the various branches of the United States Military have been using, and looking into further uses of 3D printing for some time now. Although they don’t have 3D printers set up within every platoon, the technology is certainly inching its way into use, whether on the battlefield in Afghanistan, or on board a naval vessel.
This week at the Inside 3D Printing Conference in Melbourne, Australia, we got word that the United States is not the only country looking at this technology for its possible applications on the battlefield. Australian Army Lieutenant Jacob Choi was on hand and talked a little bit about how the Australian Army plans to use the up and coming technology in the years ahead.
When it comes to battlefield casualties, one of the biggest dangers are roadside bombs. The United States, as well as their allies, have seen this time and time again within Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of their vehicles, which are targeted, are supply convoys making their way through a battlefield to get needed items to other soldiers within a war zone. Through the use of 3D printing, Choi believes that the large number of supply missions needed within a battle could be cut down substantially.
“They should be able to print what they need on the ground so it can be serviceable within a matter of hours, not days,” Choi stated. “You might have the light guys doing a lot of repair parts for rifles, armaments [and] vehicles. If you have a heavy unit able to print the most delicate parts, they might be able to print things up to the size of a Humvee or a Land Rover as well. These are just my concepts and ideas.”
Although Choi sees this technology as having positive implications for the Army, he also is fearful, that over time 4D printing could develop more intelligent improvised explosive devices (IEDs). 4D printing is the printing of an object which then can react to the environment around it, in order to shift its shape and/or use.
“You can easily imagine the threat there would be, for instance, if you had a 4D-printed part which could react at the trigger of, for instance, the intensity, frequency, modulation of a Bushmaster coming along a certain road,” Choi said.
As with any negative implication a technology may bring to the table, there are also positives, which can outweigh those negatives. For instance, with 4D printed explosives, the Army will have the capabilities of specifically targeting their enemies, cutting down civilian casualties during battle.
We are still likely several years away from any full scale implication of 3D printing technology within the military spectrum, however, it’s coming quickly. Choi hopes to see the Australian Army utilizing the full benefits of 3D printing by 2020. What do you think? Will 3D printing change war as we know it? Will the implications be positive or negative? Let’s hear your opinion in the Australian Army 3D printing forum thread on 3DPB.com.[Source: abc.net.au]
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