Jul 14, 2016 | By Benedict

Engineers at the Raytheon design site (Tucson, Arizona) are experimenting with 3D printed missile components. While additive manufacturing is currently being used to “hollow out” certain components, the American defense contractor believes that it could someday 3D print an entire missile.

The 3D printing community is, on the whole, a very friendly bunch, but that doesn’t mean 3D printers can’t be used to create incredibly deadly things. Capitalizing on today’s explosion of additive manufacturing technology is Raytheon, an American defense contractor and the world’s largest producer of guided missiles. The company is following in the footsteps of other defense manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin and MBDA in exploring the possibilities of strong and lightweight 3D printed components for its missiles.

After recently investing in a set of commercial 3D printers, Raytheon has hardly had a chance to turn the machines off, with its team of design engineers constantly looking to experiment with new ways of making missile parts. Taylor Lawrence, president of Raytheon Missile Systems, believes that 3D printers could soon be used on the frontline to provide spare parts for missiles, a change in tactics that would eliminate supply chain problems and vastly speed up the replacement process.

In the meantime, however, engineers must identify which missile parts can be safely and effectively replaced with 3D printed alternatives. At present, there are only a handful of potential candidates, but Raytheon is trying to think outside the box in order to reduce production times and costs across the entire assembly. The company is even looking into the possibility of printing electrical circuits for its missile guidance systems, as well as microwave components for radar. “It will be a while before we print a whole missile, but we definitely see that on the horizon,” Lawrence told the Financial Times.

Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin developed a Trident II D5 missile with a 3D printed cable cover, creating the part in half the time it would normally have taken. Elsewhere, MBDA, a European missile manufacturer, is also planning to use 3D printing for minor components on its weapons. Like its competitors, Raytheon believes that 3D printing can help to improve productivity in missile manufacture: “We can produce fundamentally new capability more quickly, which ultimately means lower cost,” Lawrence said.

Jeff Morgans, head of operations at MBDA, has estimated that 3D printing could reduce production time by up to 75%, but has preached caution regarding how quickly such radical changes could be implemented: “Performance of weapons is of paramount importance,” he said. “We have to be confident that the technology [can be used] without any risk.”

Images: Raytheon

When Raytheon announced that it would be using 3D printing to scale up its weapon systems earlier this year, it joined a broader group of arms manufacturers looking to harness the power of additive manufacturing for military use. BAE Systems, for example, recently outlined tentative plans for a “Chemputer”: a chemical additive manufacturing system for 3D printed military drones, while the South Korean air force last year announced that it would incorporate 3D printed parts into its fighter jet engines.

Whether Raytheon and other defense contractors can find ways to use 3D printing on a large scale remains to be seen but, considering the significant advantages that the technology could afford, it would appear to be a target worth firing at.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Bemused Bob wrote at 7/15/2016 11:56:00 AM:

So missile GOOD, gun BAD....

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive