Additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3-D printing, is inherently creative. Materials are layered together and built up, constructing an object from powder and heat and code. In the future, the U.S. Army wants to turn this innovation to far more destructive ends, by printing new warheads.
The latest issue of Army Technology focuses on 3-D printing. Designing new shapes for warheads is one promising new avenue of research. In "ARDEC investigates how 3-D printed metals could transform Army logistics", U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center materials engineer James Zunino explains to author Timothy Rider what additive manufacturing can bring to the science of blowing stuff up. Rider captures the core of it here:
Warhead designers attempt to create blast effects that meet specific criteria, explained Zunino. They may want blast fragments of specific sizes to radiate in specific directions such that their blasts can most effectively destroy desired targets.
"Once you get into detonation physics you open up a whole new universe," Zunino said. The limits on what can be produced using machine tools limit warhead shapes. By lifting limitations through the expanded capabilities that come with additive manufacturing, space is used more efficiently.
"The real value you get is you can get more safety, lethality or operational capability from the same space," Zunino said.