Jun 29, 2016 | By Benedict

PEO Soldier’s ‘Warrior Integration Site,’ a laboratory where personnel are developing ways to reduce the weight carried by US Army Infantry, is using 3D printing to prototype new equipment. Lightweight body armor, new fabrics, and other items will each contribute to the weight reduction.

There are a thousand reasons why being an infantry soldier is difficult: you’re stationed away from home, you have to maintain an incredibly high level of physical fitness, and you’re often putting your life at risk—and those are just the obvious ones. But besides those matters, there’s also the small issue of having to carry around 120 lb of equipment on extended missions. Although foot soldiers need all of the items that they carry, this huge burden reduces their mobility and effectiveness in combat. Because of this, specialists are doing all they can to reduce that total weight, and have turned to 3D printing and other emerging technologies to help them.

Program Executive Office Soldier (PEO Soldier) is an American governmental organization set up to develop, acquire, and field state-of-the-art equipment for the Army in order to improve military performance. The organization has a number of subdivisions and locations, but one facility in particular is focusing its efforts on reducing the weight, cost, and power consumption of infantry uniform and equipment. The Warrior Integration Site (WinSite) bills itself as a “collaborative design environment,” and is using 3D printing for the rapid prototyping of new, lightweight equipment.

With a soldier’s “marching load” sometimes reaching up to 132 lb, WinSite has been tasked specifically with developing more integrated and lightweight uniform and equipment solutions, eliminating any unnecessary materials and items while maintaining or increasing the potential effectiveness of the soldier. “What we are trying to do is get a more integrated and operational system. We are looking at the Soldier as a system,” said Maj. Daniel Rowell, Assistant Product Manager of Integration at Program Executive Office Soldier.

To test out a newly designed piece of equipment, prototypes can be created on the 3D printer, then fitted to a uniformed mannequin as part of a general assessment. But as well as rapid prototyping with a 3D printer, staff at WinSite are also using 3D scanning technology to “digitalize” existing Army equipment, enabling designers to integrate and modify that equipment in new CAD projects, and are developing integrated biometric sensors for uniforms which can detect heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. These sensors could be used to alert Army medics of wounded soldiers, potentially saving many lives.

In its effort to fully harness the power of additive manufacturing, the US Army has embarked upon a number of other 3D printing projects in recent times. Earlier this year, it teased the prospect of military 3D printed drones, and last year announced a partnership with 3D Systems to develop a 3D printing lab. While PEO Soldier’s WinSite is not using 3D printing for particularly headline-grabbing purposes, its work could significantly improve the effectiveness of infantry soldiers.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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