May 22, 2017 | By Benedict

Engineers at the Air Force Research Laboratory are using 3D printing to develop what could be the next “Mother of All Bombs.” They say a 3D printed casing for the weapon could produce a larger blast with less debris.

Scaled-down 3D printed prototype of the new MOAB casing

(Image: Oriana Pawlyk / Defense Tech)

3D printing in the military is becoming more and more commonplace. Earlier this year, for example, we saw how the U.S. army has been testing both 3D printed drones and 3D printed grenade launchers in an attempt to modernize its equipment.

But the most explosive use of 3D printing in the military could be happening in the Air Force, whose dedicated Research Lab has been experimenting with 3D printed bombs.

Engineers at the lab say they have been using additive manufacturing technology to develop what could end up being the next Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb. The current version of this weapon is generally referred to as the “Mother of All Bombs,” and was first used in April this year in an airstrike against ISIS militants.

The new 3D printed bomb would be lighter and smaller than its predecessor, but would still cause huge damage to its targets.

The current MOAB was first deployed in April in Afghanistan

(Image: Eglin Air Force Base / AP)

“We’ve been working on printing [munitions] for the past five to 10 years,” said Dr. John Corley, a retired four-star Air Force general and core technical competency lead for ordnance sciences at AFRL.

Speaking at a weapons showcase last week, Corley added that 3D printing can be used to reduce the size of the bomb, particularly the thickness of its case walls. The result of doing this could be significant: with a slender 3D printed casing, the bomb could provide a larger blast with less debris.

Prototypes of these new casings have been 3D printed in steel in a repeating diamond pattern, while 3D printing has also been used to fabricate fuse prototypes.

Overall, 3D printing could provide many advantages for the Air Force as it develops its next generation of weapons. In addition to providing the bombs with a larger blast radius, 3D printed aspects could also reduce the bombs to a more appropriate size—something that is especially important as military aircraft get smaller.

3D printed fuses could also improve the next generation of bombs

(Image: Oriana Pawlyk / Defense Tech)

“Workhorse munitions for us are 500 pound and 2,000 pound munitions,” Corley said. “But we’d like to get to a 100 pound munition, for instance, that has the same output as a 500 pound bomb.”

The Air Force is currently weighing up whether it should make these new bombs in-house or have them made by contracted companies.

Either way, these 3D printed explosive devices are probably still a few years away from completion.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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