As 3D printing (or rapid prototyping) continues to take the world by storm, the virtually unlimited uses of rapid prototyping continue to be shown to the world. This futuristic technology is something to behold and when in the right hands, it surely can work wonders! There are countless examples of this in today’s world from fashion to food, to art and science. It should come as no surprise that many militaries around the world are using this technology now. The benefits to military and defense manufacturers are many, so they really ought to especially to stay ahead of the game.
Benefits to Defense Manufacturers
Deadlines are crucial in this industry so the time saving component of rapid prototyping appeal to many defense manufacturers an contractors. Design teams can produce high quality prototypes at a lower cost than other methods such as outsourcing, which has led to the loss of many jobs domestically. This benefit alone has had a significant impact on the industry because certain projects that weren’t attainable in the past due to high costs or limited time are now perfectly achievable.
Being able to make prototypes faster and cheaper also allow teams to see the design in reality and better understand how the final product will feel and operate rather than only imagining them. This allows for a smoother integration with manufacturing quite early in the development lifecycle of the product. More prototyping also means that the teams will have further opportunities to analyze the part created and figure out whether or not it will function as intended by the developers. They can find any errors in the design and change them prior to releasing the final product. With fewer risks involved design teams can dish out better quality products and much faster than before.
Benefits to Military
How can rapid prototyping help a soldier in the 21st century you might ask?
Well it helps them in more than one way actually and in some cases, it even creates controversy.A fully operational 1911 semiautomatic pistol was created through the use of 3D printed parts by a company known as “Solid Concept.” This obviously caused much commotion amongst lawmakers as keeping guns out of the hands of criminals is a major issue for them. If people were now able to create guns from printed parts straight out of there living rooms, then that could indeed be a disastrous problem, depending on who gets their hands on the guns.
Rapid prototyping technology has come so far that we are now able to print fully functional robots. Building robots from 3D printed parts can result in a more compact design as shown by Boston Dynamics when they presented their robot termed as “alpha robots.” These robots can be employed in order to assist soldiers in combat. This amazing feat of rapid prototyping points to the vast potential of 3D printing in this field.
One issue that plagues the military is actually quite a subtle one. The issue of worn out boots and how to keep fresh ones available, that also fit, for soldiers is one that has bothered many commanders, even such greats as Napoleon Bonaparte. Combat boots that fit right may be the single most important item on a soldier’s list of necessities, after his rifle of course. Without the proper footwear, soldiers may even cripple themselves while in the line of duty. With rapid prototyping revolutionizing the military world, soldiers could possibly now have boots made just for their feet which meet military standards.
Rapid prototyping may even create some real life super soldiers in the future. Cells inserted into a soldier’s body may help him to heal wounds rapidly, the replacement of damaged organs with brand new 3D printed ones and enhancement of the strength or senses of a soldier may all be a reality with the advancement of 3D printing. Now this is an advancement most soldiers would absolutely love to hear!
Food of course plays a big role in how an army functions. Without the proper nutrition necessary on a daily basis, all the equipment in the world wouldn’t help bring victory during the missions. Supplying food to thousands of soldiers is a tedious task and 3D printing could simplify the process significantly. Different meals could be made for different soldiers according to what their specific needs are. The health of each soldier could be checked up and specific nutrients could be put into each meal to fit that soldiers particular needs.
Implications of Rapid Prototyping
The idea of armies printing their own armor, weapons and other parts that may be essential and much needed in war has numerous far-reaching implications. Although the benefits are plentiful, many will fight this massive logistics shift in the military. The reality is of course that this rapid prototyping technology still has a long way to go and military manufacturers have no need to worry as of yet about losing their profits due to this new technology.
Rapid prototyping, while it has made a significant impact on the military industry, has not completely revolutionized it as of yet. With 3D printing becoming more and more available for use, it will certainly no doubt have a place in the military’s mass arsenal, but it will take a long time before soldiers are eating meals via 3d printing.
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