China, the second largest economy on earth, and the United states, the first, are in a virtual arms race. A 3D printing arms race.
When it comes to military applications, 3D printing is an untapped wellspring of potential. Yes, the military uses 3D printing openly and for a great many applications. However, even in light of the grenade launcher, R.A.M.B.O., 3D printing technology has barely left the starting gate when it comes to the application possibilities.
In fact, militaries all over the world have been attempting to harness the power of 3D printing technology. Using it across the fold, developing prototypes, pushing the limits of printing technology, and even using printing product in vehicles, aircraft, weapons, and more.
When it comes to what 3D printing can create, the possibilities are virtually endless. And every military on earth knows this. This is why the two largest economies on the planet are currently going head-to-head in an all-out 3D printing arms race, each attempting to push the boundaries of the technology to implement new and innovative (and deadly) strategic and tactical applications.
Each military wants to be the first to hone this technology for absolute military superiority. Imagine if the United states military were able to mass brand new weaponry only seen in Sci-Fi movies, and ammunition, for pennies on the dollar and in a fraction of the time.
Imagine if these machines were portable, able to mass produce these weapons and ammo on the field.
The army wielding this technology would be virtually unstoppable. They would never run out of ammunition. They could produce weaponry and equipment on command. Travel light, with only the materials and blueprints, developing the weapons and ammo and equipment on-site.
Supply and Demand
On the field, for every soldier, there is a need for food, water, gear, weaponry, ammunition, and housing.
This requires support.
This support mandates trucking, fuel, and escort.
This, in turn, requires additional weaponry, equipment, food and water.
Demand needs supply. In order to meet demand, more supply is needed. It becomes an ongoing cycle of need versus supply. This means that every ounce of water, food, fuel, and every pound of equipment, gear, weaponry, and ammo counts. The logistics alone can be a nightmare.
This is where 3D technology comes into play. Carrying printers and printing material would replace weighty and room-consuming hardware. You could potentially replace literal tons of worth of gear and equipment with a few hundred pounds of printers and printing material.
This can shift the tide of battle. It could change the course of a war. It could also potentially shift the balance of power on a global stage.
The Birth of Fablabs
A fablab is where our military performs research and development on 3D printing applications in the field. We have them in Afghanistan and other war zones in other countries, as well.
This is where the magic happens.
The procurement officer secures the materials based on what they believe the soldier will need on the field. The soldier then uses these materials as a foundation, building upon the idea of these items based on need and innovation. They are able to essentially create brand new items right on the field.
While this is currently happening, this is only the beginning.
The U.S. military is hoping to outproduce – and out-innovate – China. China is hoping for the same. If the United States is unable to push the envelope, bringing the technology into the forefront and into uncharted territory, it could mean a shift in global military dominance.