3D printing has gained itself an interesting CV, from recreating Van Gogh’s discarded ear, to building a life size castle, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before the Defence Industry put 3D printing within its reach.
3D printing is beginning to take flight in all aspects of the Defence Industry, from ammunition, to replacement limbs, to iron-man style battle armor, and even a portable inventory of parts. It’s hugely cost efficient and enables design teams to quickly produce high quality, a realistic prototypes with moving parts at relatively low costs, when compared to other methods such as machining or outsourcing. It is estimated that so far, Stratasys Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) has saved the U.S government over $3.8 million to date, with an expected 10 to 15 year savings of over $15 million. This allows teams to make leaps and advances through being experimental and prototyping projects that were previously unfeasible due to time or cost constraints.
Even more exciting than 3D printed bullets, comes the possibility of 3D printed food. Various military groups are exploring innovative ways to 3D print food in the field, but more than that, they also plan on creating a bespoke menu for each soldier. By combining wearable technology that measures the soldier’s individual physiology with the 3D printers, the technology will then decide the nutritional needs of each soldier and generate a meal accordingly. For example, is the soldier has been awake for an extended period of time, the meal could include foods that promote awareness and fight fatigue. If the soldier has had a particularly strenuous day, then the meal will be high in protein etc. Although at this stage the printable ingredients are limited, there are no limits on the form the food can take. An entire meal could be compacted into a bar or liquid that can be consumed quickly on the job.
3D printing food is highly ambitious, and inevitably comes with a few teething problems. The first being the lack of printable ingredients mentioned above, the second being time – with the 3D technology we have today, it currently takes about 30 minutes to print a chocolate covered protein bar. Though lets also take into appreciation that this technology is still extremely new and without doubt will pick up speed, especially if 3D printings current progress is anything to go by!
Although the technology still has a little way to go, eventually an entire meal could be printed in a matter of minutes, and is expected to be implemented as early as 2025.