Military 3D Printing: Body Parts and Mobile Fab Labs

The Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, located at the U.S. Military’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, is up to some mind-blowingly cool stuff. Researchers at the center are using 3D printing technology to solve some serious problems that the military faces, including replacing lost limbs, speeding the development of aircraft, and fine-tuning the design of field gear for soldiers.

The researchers are using CAD software to design objects, but are also using 3D scanning to reverse engineer items, for example protective masks for combat troops. 

Lost limb replacement is probably the most fascinating (and morbid) project they are working on. The premise is that by scanning soldiers before they go to war, a 3D model exists in case any body part is lost. If the soldier loses their lower leg, a prosthetic can be quickly produced that looks exactly like the real body part.

A very interesting company in this space is Bespoke Innovations, who specialize in 3D scanning and printing of custom prosthetic limbs. 

Shown above, Rapid technologies Branch Chief Rick Moore describes how the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center is using 3D printing technology.

3D printing technology is not new to the military, the most impressive example is the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force. The mobile lab is contained in a 20″ shipping container with gear that include a 3D printer, CNC machine, and plasma cutters. The lab deploys with two scientists who collaborate with soldiers and other engineers to develop solutions to pressing equipment problems. The labs have already been deployed overseas in combat zones, and a future lab is planned for disaster and humanitarian relief missions.

Warning: Video features bad animation and cheery, upbeat military imagery.

Via: Robotics Tomorrow Image: David McNally