WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — The U.S. Army is researching the ability to 3-D print warheads that are more lethal but less expensive than traditionally manufactured weapons.
The Army is developing the 3-D printing technology to create warheads that would be more compact and have a more precise and lethal blast radius, according to the report in Army Technology.
“3-D printing of warheads will allow us to have better design control and utilize geometries and patterns that previously could not be produced or manufactured,” James Zunino, a researcher at the Armament Research, Engineering and Design Center, told Vice Motherboard. “Warheads could be designed to meet specific mission requirements whether it is to improve safety to meet an Insensitive Munitions requirement, or it could have tailorable effects, better control, and be scalable to achieve desired lethality.”
Several Army officials said 3-D technology is the future of military manufacturing that will reduce costs and allow for the creation of even more complex structures. Zunino writes that the Army hopes to print entire warheads in a single process.
“Maybe someday an entire warhead or rocket could be produced as the technology further matures,” Zunino wrote.
The Army has also been researching ways to 3-D print human skin for soldiers who are wounded in battle and possibilities to 3-D print food for soldiers in the midst of combat.
“3-D printing is the process of making something from stock materials, such as metal or plastic powder, by adding material in successive layers. It’s also known as additive manufacturing, or AM,” explained Dale A. Ormond, director of RDECOM.
“One day, soldiers will print critical repair parts at the point of need.”
Zunino reiterated that the 3-D printed warheads could have their individual parts tailored for maximized efficiency and lethality.
“Warheads could be designed to meet specific mission requirements whether it is to improve safety to meet an Insensitive Munitions requirement, or it could have tailorable effects, better control, and be scalable to achieve desired lethality,” Zunino wrote.
“3-D printing also allows for integrating components together to add capabilities at reduced total life cycle costs,” Zunino explained. “It is expected that 3-D printing will reduce life-cycle costs of certain items and make munitions more affordable in the long run through implementation of design for manufacturability, and capitalizing on the add capabilities that 3-D printing and additive manufacturing can bring to munitions and warheads.”