Houston, We (Don’t) Have a Problem

How the Government Soars to New Heights With 3D Printing

astronaut 3D model

When the hardware store is 238,900 miles away, a broken or lost tool could mean a costly end to a critical NASA mission. Instead of flying back home, NASA engineers back on earth simply send the specifications for a replacement to the astronaut’s onboard 3D Printer. And they aren’t the only members of the US Government taking advantage of the additive process. From the smallest wrench to the biggest submarine, 3D Printing has become a crucial asset to the US Government.

“If we can’t find it, we’ll make it.”

That’s the motto of the Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell (AMOC), which secures parts to keep the Marines’ equipment operating smoothly. Rather than replacing parts traditionally, AMOC uses 3D Printers to print the object within hours and get it back out to the field faster than you can say, “Sir, Yes Sir!” Obscure and outdated parts are also not a problem. Even if the part is no longer manufactured, AMOC can design and create the part, allowing outdated equipment to stay operational.

The Best Defense is a Good 3D Printer

Our armed forces rely on various tools to execute on their missions, policies, and overall initiatives. Increasingly, 3D Printers create those tools quickly, cost-effectively, and highly-customizable. Ammunition, weapons, and military transports are all built with additive technology. Military drones, for example, are used for a variety of reasons, but it’s not easy carrying them around on the front lines. Instead, the Army 3D prints the drones they need when they need them. The endless customization options allow the boots on the ground to print the right drone for the mission at hand, without having to wait on a slow-moving supply chain. Plus, a variety of material options – including Markforged’s metal and flame retardant composites – ensures those tools that are critical to our national security also keep our Troops safe when using them.

The Navy is also determined to explore all the benefits that 3D printing can offer. A submarine hull manufactured through traditional methods costs between $600,000 to $800,000 and takes 3-5 months to build. A 3D printed hull can be produced at a mere fraction of the time and expense. With results like that, it’s easy to see why the Navy is doubling down on this ground breaking technology by requesting $23 Million in 3D printing research & development funding in 2020.

From Bare Land to Barracks in 40 Hours

When it comes to capitalizing on additive manufacturing, the US Government is thinking big. Really big. They’re using large-scale 3D printers to produce everything from Bridges to Barracks.  These large-scale printers can produce strong structures on demand with significantly less time, money and manpower than alternative methods, allowing soldiers to concentrate on soldiering, not construction.

While many government agencies are focused on today’s needs, NASA is utilizing 3D Printing to prepare for tomorrow. The space agency recently hosted a competition to create a 3D printed sustainable habitat that can be used for deep space exploration, and even for living on Mars. Utilizing this technology, NASA hopes to create entire habitats out of materials already being used and discarded by astronauts while in space.  Our partner, BigRep happens to specialize in similarly innovative large-format 3D print projects like a smart concrete wall. It’s a match made in Heaven…or Outer Space.

Remember that wrench we mentioned at the beginning of this post? We recently used our Markforged 3D printer to create our own wrenches. They are strong enough for any situation and any location – be it land, sea or air (or Mars!). If you want to get your hands on one or simply want to learn more about 3D printing, fill out the contact us form at the bottom of this page.