3D Printing

U.S. Army tests 3D-printed military drones

By Mark Lapedus, for Semiconductor Engineering

Jan 03, 2017

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The U.S. Army Research Laboratory has begun testing 3D printed drones for use in on-demand military missions.

The technology, called the On-Demand Small Unmanned Aircraft System (ODSUAS), enables a soldier to input the mission requirements in software. Then, a 3D printer devises the optimal configuration for an unmanned aerial vehicle, and it’s printed and delivered within 24 hours.

With the technology, researchers printed a Picatinny rail in about two-and-a-half hours. A Picatinny rail is a bracket used to mount a small arms weapon, such as an M4 carbine. The M4 carbine is an assault rifle used by the U.S. military.

The Army continues to collaborate with partners at the Georgia Tech’s Aerospace Systems Design Lab as they continue to refine technologies for future soldiers. “Drones or quadcopters are really getting big right now, I mean in particular just the commercial and hobby markets have shown what can be done with a small amount of money,” said John Gerdes, an engineer with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

“Additive manufacturing or 3-D printing has become huge and everybody knows all the great things that can be done with 3-D printers," says Gerdes, "so we figured let’s assemble these two new technologies and provide a solution to soldiers that need something right now and don’t want to wait for it.”

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