In the last year alone, 3D printing has made rapid advancements, and the price of a top-of-the-line desktop model runs for less than $3,000. Most individuals have seen or at least heard about the printable AR-15s and pistols. While these particular products are causing an uproar with antigun lobbyists – specifically with California and New York democrats – they are not why 3D printing has great potential for the military and the world of special operations.
In Ranger Battalion, we used to sit around and talk about ways to make our gear better. Guys would cut straps, sew on extra webbing, or make their own slings. This advancement is especially important for SOF because of the freedom of each individual to set-up their gear or rack specific for the mission. As it stands now, I don’t see many ‘Big Army’ or non-special operations units letting their soldiers run wild on gear placement, let alone customized equipment.
With the invention of 3D printing, now anyone can have that little item attached to the side of their weapon that they have always wanted, to do whatever it was that they dreamed it could do. They could potentially make holsters, mag pouches, helmet mounts, or any array of synthetic items that could improve the individual soldier’s personal equipment. The possibilities are literally endless.
Having the printer in the unit would also allow for the addition of job opportunities for technical specialists to enter into the SOF community for design and CAD. This could allow for an operator to go to this specialist with a rough sketch or drawing of the item and have it designed for only a few dollars. If this particular item works the way that the operator intended and others within the community also wanted the same advancement, the item could be sent off to an injection molding contractor and have the item mass produced for the entire unit.
Not only is 3D the next big thing, many believe, including myself, that every home will someday have a 3D printer sitting at home on their desk. The advancements are rising at such an exponential rate that labs have been experimenting with 3D printing artificial livers.
By paying $1,500-3,000, every SOF company could have innovation at their fingertips and cut prototype testing costs in the process.
(Featured Image Courtesy: DIGITALTRENDS.COM)