An operation in Ukraine has created a community network for 3D printing military components.
“3D Print Army” has been operating for about a year now, and they now have over 1300 participants with almost 1500 3D printers. They say they’ve run through almost 18,000kg of thermoplastic so far.
What is this all about? It’s a way for the community to help Ukraine in its ongoing struggle against the invading Russian forces. Early on in the conflict, Ukraine forces realized they could leverage many consumer technologies effectively against their foe. An example would be drones, which now are used daily to drop grenades on unsuspecting enemies.
However, drones and other technologies often are not designed for military use, and so 3D Print Army has developed a catalog of plastic parts that can be easily produced on a 3D printer to fill that gap.
Example parts in the catalog include:
- Guide fins for drone-dropped grenades, to adapt regular grenades for the new application
- Drone launching platforms that overcome uneven terrain
- Starlink cable reinforcers to prevent cable breakage
And there’s many more similar designs.
3D Print Army looks after delivering the printed goods to the military.
The organization also works with manufacturers. They allow manufacturers to participate by identifying a type of 3D printable part they require for their production. This part design can then be placed in the catalog, where it will then be produced by the 3D printer network.
It seems they have participants all over the world, who then send parts to Ukraine. However, they believe it could be more effective to instead set up a printer locally in Ukraine. They explain:
“Locating a 3D printer in Ukraine significantly increases logistical efficiency compared to printing abroad. The funds that would have been spent on delivery can now be spent on plastic! Moreover, an installed webcam allows you to monitor the printing process in real time. In this way, your printer will print for the Armed Forces of Ukraine with maximum efficiency.”
This is a very real opportunity for those who support Ukraine’s struggle to do something quite direct and meaningful. I encourage readers to sign up, if able.
There’s another opportunity here, however. There are multiple existing commercial 3D printing networks that might consider participating. Imagine if they offered an option to participate with 3D Print Army through their normal print network: parts catalogs could be shared, and perhaps even centralized shipping could be performed.
I’m hoping that some of the larger print networks consider this possibility.
There are millions of desktop 3D printers now deployed, and many of them are idle, right now. How about we put some of them to work helping Ukraine?
Via 3D Printed Army