The European Defence Agency has announced it will run a 3D printing lab as part of its new European Tactical Airlift Centre (ETAC) in Zaragoza, Spain.
The EDA aims to evaluate the possibility of implementing 3D printing technology as part of a military operation, having previously expressed an intention of evaluating the technology to do so. The center will be opened June 8 by the Head of the EDA, Federica Mogherini, Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
3D printing lab
The 3D printing lab will be part of the third European Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Course for 2017 (EAATTC 17-3). The EAATTC will be hosted by the Spanish Air Force and will include aircraft from Belgium, Germany, Poland and Spain. The purpose of the EAATTC is to bring together several countries and provide a “robust airlift tactics training syllabus”. Not only will the participating crews learn new techniques for delivering supplies, they will also test the possibility of incorporating 3D printing.
Known as the “Additive Manufacturing Feasibility Study & Technology Demonstration”, the 3D printing project intends to assess the military application of the technology and whether it can improve defense capabilities. A press released posted by the EDA explains,
The deployment of the 3D printing lab represents a significant step in bridging the data gap on 3D printer performance in deployed conditions and will demonstrate the operational utility of these technologies.
On board 3D printing
The EDA explains the 3D printing lab will be evaluated during a test flight, “to examine its feasibility to be deployed by air.” Technicians aboard the flight will attempt to 3D print parts on site and on board an aircraft.
The US military has similarly explored the use of 3D printing to deliver military supplies as an alternative to parachute drops. The EDA’s on site 3D printed parts will vary in complexity to understand the capabilities of the machine in deployment. The agency states,
The overall study has the objective of raising awareness in the defence community and of promoting a better understanding of the potential held by these technologies, thereby stimulating their implementation in defence specific areas.
It has not been disclosed which 3D printer(s) the EDA will be implementing as part of the research, however the technology has previously proved its adaptability with Made in Space developing a microgravity 3D printer.
Featured image shows The EAATTC 2015. Photo via European Defence Agency on Flickr.