3-D printing has yielded items both fascinating and potentially troubling. Now we can add one more to the list of printed achievements: The U.S. Army has had a rapid prototyping wing for some time, and now they've deployed full teams--complete with scientists and 3-D printers--to Afghanistan.
The Rapid Equipping Force, as the wing is known, will be there to print one-off tools from a 20-foot shipping container stuffed to the gills with tech. The "Expeditionary Lab--Mobile," as it's awkwardly named, could significantly cut the amount of time needed to produce equipment, which might otherwise have to go through an approval process before the gear gets sent. The printer can make plastic parts while a CNC system, in this case a Haas OM-2, can create parts out of steel and aluminum.
That kind of speed isn't cheap: each lab costs about $2.8 million. That includes the 3-D printing devices, as well as a full stock of relatively traditional tools like saws and welders. Two engineers stay in each lab, are replaced every four months, and stay linked up electronically with other engineers.
Past their use in Afghanistan, officials told Military.com, the containers could find use in domestic operations, such as natural disasters.
Wander what they manufacture??
They could do everything from metal and plastic weapon parts to plastic buckles for straps to soles of shoes. Even more complicated parts for vehicles and other devices could be made as well. They really could cut down a ton of bureaucratic processing and shipping times with this setup.
The problem is they would still need billets of raw materials to make equipment. Also, they would only be able to do rudimentary heat treatment processes as well.
However, there is no arguing the usefulness of such a setup, even in such a limited capacity.
Can printers use regrind like injection molding? I might be a nice capability in a pinch when it doesn't need to be top quality, like strap clips and stuff.
They could easily set one up to use regrind and I assume they would. Most bases end up generating a lot of waste material that could potentially be reused by this system. Most of the items I would imagine them using this system for wouldn't need top of the line treatments or finishing, though, aluminum doesn't require much to harden or put a protective finish on it and plastic is, well, plastic.
just wait till terrorists get their hands on one.
"You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes." -Morpheus