3D printing has taken the world by storm, transforming entire industries and making new things possible that could barely be imagined just a few years ago. You can easily compare 3D printers to find one that’s right for your needs, whether you’re prototyping, a “maker” or a small business owner.
There are large format printers for industrial and commercial needs, too, and the technology has made it all the way into outer space. Now, the US Pentagon looks to get in on the action.
What’s going on?
The Big Partnership
While the partnership doesn’t have a name, “big” certainly seems to encompass it. The US Pentagon announced in a recent press release that it would be joining forces with the likes of Apple and Boeing to explore the world of 3D printed wearables.
In all, there are 96 different companies involved. It goes beyond businesses, though.
There are 42 different universities, as well as 11 laboratories sand 14 state/regional organizations involved. Big might be something of an understatement.
According to the release, the goal of the partnership is “to develop a range of high-end 3D printed wearables, full of electronics and sensors, to be used in military environments.” Sounds pretty Orwellian, particularly when you consider the fact that what goes to the military usually trickles down to the civilian sector.
How long might it be before we’re all wearing 3D printing clothing embedded with sensors?
Of course, this technology would offer soldiers quite a few benefits. Imagine flexible, comfortable sensors that monitored soldiers’ health and vital signs remotely, at all times.
Imagine new sensors designed to be attached to aircraft and tanks to measure stress, impact and other forces. That’s all coming down the pipe at some point.
The Pentagon is not only involved in the research and development aspect, but the government is actually providing $75 million in funding for the program. An additional $96 million in funding is being provided from other sources (non-government).
In addition to the creation of the technology itself, the initiative seeks to create a monitoring center. It would operate for at least five years, and it would both monitor and manufacture these systems.
US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said, “This is an emerging technology that takes advanced flexible materials for circuits, communications, sensors and power, and combines them with thinned silicon chips to ultimately produce the next generation of electronic products.”
“I’ve been pushing the Pentagon to think outside our five-sided box and invest in innovation here in Silicon Valley and in tech communities across the country,” he added.
The base of operations for the new initiative is apparently going to be located in San Jose, California, and will be named the Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Hub (yes, it’s a mouthful, but we’re sure they’ll come up with a handy acronym for it soon). Ultimately, this will be one of nine other such centers located around the country.