‘Take aim, press print’ – military tests 3D-printed explosives

Written by Sam Trendall on 10 March 2020 in News
News

Research unit examines the front-line potential of additive manufacturing

 

Credit: Sebastian Willnow/DPA/PA Images

The government’s military research unit is testing the potential use of 3D-printing technologies in manufacturing explosives.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory said that being able to print explosives “offers numerous benefits” for users, “including reducing storage and transport costs, and enhanced performance with reproducibility”.

“Charges can be printed on demand, bespoke to requirements, in novel and intricate designs previously impossible to manufacture,” it added. “Many organisations are looking at different stages of 3D printing, but Dstl is the only place in the UK that is working on an end-to-end process of this kind with high explosives.”

Work on the project is “currently in testing stages”, it said, with efforts primarily focused on examining potential materials and the capabilities of existing printers. Later on, the programme will “move on to examining explosive characteristics of a print including utilising charge geometry to create different explosive effects”.

Being able to understand how the shape of an explosive alters its effect “could lead to bespoke printing for individual missions in a warzone, providing an amplification of an effect with less material”.

A spokesperson for the military research unit claimed it was crucially important that funding continue to be made available for government bodies to conduct this work.

“Without investment, the UK capability would die,” they said. “It’s up to MOD to make sure that doesn’t happen, as industry has limited or no capability in many critical areas.”

The 3D-printed explosives work is part of the Future Energetics Project – a programme backed by £10m of Ministry of Defence funding designed to arrest a “national decline in the energetics sector”.

 

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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