Motherboard reports the US army has been investigating use of 3D printing to optimize warhead design.
You might think that a warhead is simply a chunk of explosive in a metal case, but explosive technology is far more complex. You may have heard of “shaped charges”, in which the design of the warhead causes the explosion to evolve in a specific direction, but the US Army believes they can do much more than that with 3D printed warheads. They say:
Warhead designers attempt to create blast effects that meet specifc criteria, explained Zunino. They may want blast fragments of specifc sizes to radiate in specifc directions such that their blasts can most effectively destroy desired targets.
This follows the pattern that’s taken place for years in industry: the new geometries made possible by 3D printing can be leveraged in ways not possible with conventional making. In this case, the US Army is applying the same pattern to a military problem.
We can imagine they will explore ways to reduce the cost of warheads by making more effective use of materials and optimizing the explosions to best fit mission requirements. It’s also possible side effects may occur, such as reduced warhead weight may mean simpler, cheaper and smaller cannons, airframes and drones.