Imagine being at a remote military base and a critical piece of equipment breaks. Or needing a new piece of equipment for a job but prototyping and having it shipped over from the States would take months. What would you do?
How about just print what you need?
The army is using new 3D printers labs at remote bases in Afghanistan to create replacement parts or rapid prototype entirely new ones. The technology is like the Replicators in Star Trek according to a Foxnews article.
The labs contain 3D printers, CNC mills laser & water based cutters and are contained in a 20 foot container that can be placed where needed. The video above from US RDECOM shows some of the technology available in the units at work.
Having worked at a super precision machine shop I am impressed with the selection of devices. The prototyping can be created using CAD and then printed on the 3D printers. This usually creates plastic type products. Then if the tool works as needed, it can then be sent to the CNC mills and cutters to make a much more durable version made out of metal.
The Army currently has two of these labs in service with another one coming soon. Giving our troops the ability to make what they need on the fly, what a great idea!
(For more information on the printer used in the video above check out the Objet Connex webpage)