US Army Is Interested In 3D Printers

From BBC:

By putting 3D printers behind the front line it hopes to be able to produce spares more cheaply and quickly than it can get them from manufacturers.

The army embarked on the project to produce its own printer as commercial devices were too expensive.

Early versions of the printer cost $695 (£436) compared to $3,000 (£1,880) for a commercial model.

It makes total sense if you think about it. One of the biggest weaknesses in Iraq for a long time were supply convoys. They were constantly being attacked and subjected to IED’s. Keeping the front lines supplied is critical to any battle. If they could refabricate just a few critical things it would reduce the impacts of this vulnerability.

Of course one also wonders why the military, especially after Iraq doesn’t stress alternative full supplies more than they do. One in eight casualties was due to fuel supply convoys. It’s apparently something they are working hard on. It would be a major strategic victory if they had such technology they could rely on. Perhaps in the future, our military on the front lines will actually be self sufficient and not relying on convoys to bring supplies. It would save many lives.

Not to mention, applying these things to other non-military uses would be a major win too. Imagine being able to deploy such capabilities to a natural disaster. First responders would be much more productive than they are capable of being today.

Logistics is expensive, and time-consuming at best. Reducing logistics makes dangerous situations better. These technologies can and likely will eventually change the world and how our military and first responders will respond to a crisis. It’s pretty impressive to see where things are headed.

Where Amazon Will Go Next

The other day Amazon’s Jeff Bezos admitted Amazon makes no money from the Kindle itself. That’s not as bad as it sounds. Jeff Bezos is referring to the hardware. Amazon sells content for the Kindle and that can make money. This is akin to shipping at cost and making money off the product you sell.

The Kindle isn’t a product, it’s a delivery method.

This however has me thinking. Jeff Bezos is a bright guy, and Amazon is a clever company who is constantly innovating. It’s pretty clear Amazon is looking to expand its warehouses to more locations to cut down on delivery time and perhaps even offer same day delivery in many places. It seems quite possible however that Amazon’s Lab 126 may have another trick up it’s sleeve for the (substantially) longer term: 3D printing. If Amazon can manage to create an ecosystem where products can be printed on demand, it can turn anything into eBook. Sold and delivered through their ecosystem. Simplistic items first and perhaps eventually more complicated items.

That’s not to say expect Amazon to sell 3D printers tomorrow. We’re talking years most likely. However it would be the ultimate delivery method for applicable goods.

MakerBot Replicator 2

MakerBot Replicator™ 2

The MakerBot Replicator™ 2 is pretty amazing when you think about it. I’m pretty certain there is a future in 3D printing. It may eventually even be the successor to physical mail in many cases. Simply order and print out your product. Perhaps the order will reimburse you the material used to output your product. Instant delivery not even Amazon could beat with the warehouse model.

It’s hard to justify the purchase of one today, but make no mistake, these things have a future somewhere.