The 3D printing has limitless uses, particularly in the defense industry, which could herald a new industrial revolution, according to experts.
For many, 3D printing is still a gadget, just good to reproduce commonplace plastic figures. But with the recent expiration of several key patents, new printers capable of using metal, wood or fabric will become much more accessible, suggesting a historical shift for the manufacturing any solid material.
Always on the lookout for new technologies, powerful defense industry is at the forefront of this innovation. The US military is investing heavily in the three-dimensional printing in order to produce uniform, synthetic skin to heal his injuries and even food, says Alex Chausovsky analyst IHS Technology.
Researchers at the famous MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) have even invented the “4D impression” with materials that become in contact with other elements, such as water. This could one day lead to the manufacture of uniforms chameleon color would change depending on the environment.
The technology already knows his first practical applications.
In late December, the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) was able to make a kind of wrench whereas the design was sent from Earth, thanks to a 3D printer made especially for weightlessness.
End of 2013, the British giant BAE Systems has integrated arms to a Tornado fighter .That was the first time a piece of metal printed from 3d printer.
“This is our vision but we do have the goal of making an aircraft using only the technology of 3D printing,” said AFP Matt Stevens, head of 3D printing division at BAE.
Revolution and new risks
Able to carry printers on a battlefield could also upset the fighting techniques and defense industry, said Peter W. Singer, an expert on future warfare in the New America Foundation.
“Soldiers stationed in Afghanistan bottom end could for example create software to make a spare part and print”, away from the chains of production of armaments factories.
In foreign policy, technology would render meaningless sanctions practice.
“The United States imposed sanctions on everything from spare parts for fighter planes to the petroleum equipment, but 3D printing could make totally obsolete sanctions -. That formed a crucial part of foreign policy for more than a generation, “says Singer.
But this facility to produce weapons outside of traditional industrial circuits would also make the emergence of new risks.
“Imagine experts in Middle East explosives that would start making bombs to the appearance of everyday objects or a lone wolf printing a plastic gun with which he could fool the security gates of the White House” warns by U.S experts.
In addition to increased security risk, it would be above all an economic revolution with unpredictable consequences.
If anyone can get printed goods, countries whose economy is based on the production of toys or clothes by low labor costs, could be in real trouble.
“If you want to better understand the threat posed 3D printing, see how China is dependent on its low-end manufacturing sector,” says by U.S experts.
Invented in the 80s, 3D printing is a new technology less than many realize. But she has a renewed interest because patents that restricted the use of original technology are to expire, paving the way for competition which is expected to advance the quality and lower prices.
“You cannot dig a curved hole,” says by U.S experts. “With 3D printing, we can make products that could not be produced with traditional methods.”
The extent of the implications is still difficult to predict. “This is the first time in years comes a radical upheaval in industrial engineering,” observes the head of BAE. “We do not realize a simple progress, we are reinventing the rules.”