3-D printing has already spawned dart guns, pistols, and rifles, but up until now, the 3-D printed arsenal has been lacking the firepower of a guided missile.
That’s something that Raytheon, noted producer of things that go bang, wants to change. The company has been working on 3-D printing the component parts of its guided missiles. According to Raytheon engineer Jeremy Danforth, they have already succeeded in printing 80 per cent of the parts.
Given all the stuff that goes into a missile — complicated electronics, precise housings, and rocket boosters — that’s an impressive achievement. For the time being, Raytheon is mostly interested in the cost savings that additive manufacturing can promise, but for the military, there’s a lot of logistical upsides as well: put a stack of raw materials and a 3-D printer on an aircraft carrier, and you could have a virtually unlimited supply of munitions for the aircraft.
That particular logistical dream isn’t quite ready yet — there’s still some components that can’t be 3-D printed, and even if you could theoretically print an entire missile, it’s still a complicated process with fine tolerances better suited to a dedicated factory. Thankfully, that also probably means that your local upholder of the Second Amendment probably isn’t going to be printing Sidewinders any time soon.