3D printing could be the key to just-in-time manufacturing on the battlefield. In December, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command invited engineers from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to Fort Benning, Georgia, where they demonstrated 3D-printed drones that were printed for specific missions, all in 24 hours.
If soldiers were on patrol and required UAV support, they would input their mission requirements into a planning software. The software would create the ideal design based on the requirements and print a custom drone that's delivered to the patrol within 24 hours. The timeline works out, because, according to the soldiers, it takes about a day to plan and execute a mission.
They call the process ODSUAS (sounds like Odysseus), or the 3D-printed On-Demand Small Unmanned Aircraft System.
During the test, the team had the quadcopter reaching up to 55 miles per hour. And while the crowd of Army leaders was impressed, they did what any good manager does, and asked for more. According to Army leaders, they want it quieter, able to travel farther, more agile, and capable of carrying a heavier payload.
The 3D-printed drone is just one of many potential uses the Army has for 3D printing. Just last week, a story came out about a pair hydraulic mechanics stationed in North Carolina who are using 3D printing to streamline hydraulic line maintenance in aircraft.
They spend most of their time bending metal tubes. They are replacement parts for the lines push hydraulic fluids to the landing gear, flaps, etc. They came up with a 3D-printed flexible tube that can be shaped at the aircraft site and then brought back to the shop where they bend the metal tube replacement part into the same exact shape.
This is IEN Now with David Mantey.