3D Printing for the Defense Industry

3D Printing for the Defence Industry

According to research, an enormous 75% of industry leaders believe that 3D printing will become customary within the globe’s defense industry within the next ten years. Additive manufacturing can transform the defense industry, providing new ways to 3D print replacement parts on-demand while reducing production costs and enabling new design engineering possibilities.

Additive manufacturing is unlocking a sea of opportunities for the defense industry, reducing production costs for tools and components, additional design flexibility, and localized manufacturing. Additionally, additive manufacturing can also enhance the maintenance of military systems by producing spare or obsolete parts.

Advantages of 3D Printing in Defense Sector

1. Rapid product development

Additive manufacturing speeds up the design process as it requires no special tooling. Generally, traditional manufacturing can take months to produce the necessary tools to create end parts and prototypes. Therefore, the defense industry can take advantage of the technology to reduce the time required for product development.

2. Freedom of design

The defense industry can also capitalize on the ability of 3D printing to produce freeform, optimized objects. It means that a part’s weight can be significantly reduced using additive manufacturing, saving material costs and production time.

3. Customised equipment

3D printing also offers the Customised military opportunity to create customized parts for specific functions. Instead of carrying parts and pieces for all possible configurations, soldiers can directly use 3D printing systems to manufacture parts based on demand. For example, the US Army can now 3D print customized drone airframes tailored to a given mission’s specific needs.

4. On-site production

Defense staff can now harness 3D printing technology to manufacture tailored parts and spare parts of equipment directly on the site and any time. They are no more waiting around on the battlefield for emergency reinforcements! • The ability of 3D printing to produce the right part at the right time. This can be advantageous in manufacturing customized parts and spares, on-site production, on-demand production on the battlefield, and challenging terrain emergencies.

5. Metal 3D printing

Metal 3D printing makes it possible for complex military components to be produced in no time and be used on the battlefield. Take the enemy by surprise!

6. Titanium Printing

3d printing in the defense industry can help the industry in managing cost by reducing waste. Many parts and components of defense equipment are made using expensive materials such as titanium. While there is a high wastage rate in traditional manufacturing, additive manufacturing can offer low wastage.

7. Easy Manufacturing of Complex Designs

3D printing technology makes highly accurate and detailed scale models using SLA and material jetting. These models can be used for testing and communication of designs in the defence industry.

8. Waste Reduction

Waste reduction is another appealing aspect of 3D print technology for defense. Expensive materials such as titanium can be efficiently managed and used in 3D printing without much wastage.

9. Getting back old designs and Spares

Many equipment in defense sector has become old, and the armed forces often face problems in procuring spares as some of the original OEMs have mostly been shut down. The 3d printing services in India can quickly address this issue and produce customized spares and components.

10. Rapid Prototyping

One of the most endearing aspects of 3D printing is its low cost of operation. Rapid prototyping allows for faster turnarounds of any defense equipment that requires modifications, thus reducing expenses. Better supply chain management and diminished warehousing costs are equally essential by-products of 3D printed parts in the defence industry.

All this could mean that soldiers in remote areas can also use 3D printing to their advantage. The remote area functionality is already in the testing phase to some extent: back in 2012, the US army used an additive manufacturing facility in Afghanistan to print spare parts much more quickly than procuring them.

Application of 3D Printing in Indian Defence Sector

3D Printing for the Defense Industry

Indian Air Force Day (Photo: Twitter | @DDNational)

Recently, the Indian Army signs a pact to procure high-altitude drones from IdeaForge for $20 million. The start-up was founded and incubated by the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B).

IdeaForge: The premium product of the company is the SWITCH UAV. SWITCH UAV is a first of its kind VTOL and fixed-wing hybrid Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. SWITCH features advanced flight time, higher safety, and simple operation with additional fail-safe redundancies. It is used for long-duration operations, long-endurance surveillance and security, inspection, and photogrammetry.

3D Printed Drone - IdeaForge - IIT Bombay

Image Source: https://www.ideaforge.co.in/

The Indian defense establishment has been using 3-D printers to build components or prototype models for scientific investigations. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) are the two major aeronautic establishments in the country with decades of aerospace technology experience, are using AM technology for design and development. A brief study of these two organizations’ expertise with AM technology clearly shows that the technology will play an essential role in the Indian A&D sector.

HAL, the only aircraft manufacturer in India, has set its sights on AM technology to build several components for its indigenous engine program. HAL claims that they are using the direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) technique to print parts for the indigenously developed Hindustan Turbofan Engine. HAL is also taking the lead by using the technology for its indigenous aircraft program because it is sure that it will get DMLS built features certified soon.

The Sweet Spot for Additive Manufacturing: Low Volume, High Value, Long Lead-Time Parts

Often, the sweet spot for additive manufacturing is in low-volume, high value, long lead-time parts. Why? 3D printing reduces lead times and allows you to avoid the high up-front costs of traditional manufacturing: supply chain, tooling, and setup.

On the cost side, 3D printing often eliminates tooling and setup costs associated with traditional manufacturing. These lowered fixed costs mean that production at low volumes becomes economically viable. The graph below shows visually why this happens:

There’s a time benefit too: Since additive manufacturing doesn’t require setup or tooling, 3D-printed parts can often be produced with lead times in days versus weeks or months for traditional manufacturing.





The Impact
That Matters.



Reduction in cost



Reduction in Time

Supply Chain


Inventory & warehousing

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“One of the main applications they use 3D printing for is custom workpiece holders which mount on the machine conveyors.”


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