Nov.9, 2012

The mission of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, or SMDC is to develop technology to benefit the American warfighter. Since mid-September a smaller, low-cost 3D printer has been running at SMDC's Future Warfare Center Innovative Ventures Office. This $695 Printrbot 3D printer is used for creating low-cost replacement parts and up to now have modeled and manufactured custom sensor housings and custom casings for control boards and other exposed electronics.

"We do a lot of work with space-borne sensors, and we use small airborne platforms as an inexpensive stand-in when we're experimenting," said D. Shannon Berry, operations research analyst with the Innovative Ventures Office. "Parts for these systems break frequently, and many of them are produced overseas, so there's a long lead time for replacement parts. The concept was that a 3-D printer could replicate those parts with less overhead in terms of time and money."

This is not the first 3D printer at SMDC, earlier we reported that the team uses professional 3D printer to develop items for the warfighter, such as protective masks, holder for a heavy handheld sensor etc. But this Printrbot is the first low-cost 3D printer that replicate parts for the warfighter. The device is so small and light that it can be easily carried in a backpack or on a truck, said Berry.

"The impact is even more significant when you look at small business that have great concepts for physical systems that could benefit the warfighter, but they do not have the funds or support in the present acquisition environment to make that system a reality," Berry said. "The 3-D printer could strongly impact the acquisitions chain, offering the ability of rapid prototyping and low-cost initial operations capability to more development teams."


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Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Richard Thall wrote at 11/13/2012 8:14:00 PM:

This printer is obviously a printrBot or a close derivative, not developed by the US Army as claimed in the original posting. (See If the Army has a value-add, such as software, for example, it would be interesting to learn about that.

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