It really seems like the US Army is discovering 3D printing in all its forms. Recently they made the news with plans for 3D printed food, skin as well as warheads. Their newest plan is to 3D print uniforms for soldiers. Those uniforms are currently being made using 2D CAD software, but the US Army thinks in the future 3D printing will play a major role in the production of those clothes.
The US Army has a center where those clothes are being made, called the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center (NSRDEC). The NSRDEC provides for products such as hats, body armor and field clothing. Their team leader Annette LaFleur (pictured above) thinks incorporating 3D printing techniques could have a lot of benefits for the branche.
To Army Technology Magazine, LaFleur said the following about 3D printing:
“It could improve flexibility. You could incorporate hard and soft materials together into one design. So, maybe you have some sort of clothing or protective item that has rigid areas that move into soft areas, where our body needs to flex. That could be really exciting because that is hard to accomplish with a regular textile.”
She also said less seams will be necessary to produce a garment. “The fewer seams you have, the more comfort you can achieve,” LaFleur said. “Seams can cause a hot spot with rubbing. Seams can cause discomfort in high heat and humidity, especially when you layer with body armor. Reducing seams on chem-bio gear would be huge.”
In the future, army clothes could be made to the exact size of a soldier. In addition, they could reduce the weight of a uniform. “We could create something that is a totally perfect fit and reduce weight, maybe reduce bulk,” said LaFleur. “A lot of the neat textiles that are being 3-D printed, even out of these synthetics, have a 3-D structure to them. That makes you think about spacer-type materials where you have air flow, which is so important if our Soldiers are going to be somewhere hot again, whether it is jungle or desert.”
Image credits: US Army.