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Army's 3-D printed bombs to create 'a whole new universe' of lethal capabilities

Three-dimensional printing is taking the evolution of the bomb to a new level. The U.S. Army believes that the new technology will present security experts and policy makers with capabilities previously unimaginable.

“Once you get into detonation physics, you open up a whole new universe,” U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center materials engineer James Zunino, told Army Technology magazine for its July issue.

In short, part of Mr. Zunino’s work with ARDEC involves figuring out how different layers of explosive material can be packaged in new shapes to get a very specific result.

The engineer told the magazine that 3-D printing would allow warhead designers to create customizable bombs, which would send tailored blast fragments in the direction mostly likely to kill targets.

“The real value you get is you can get more safety, lethality or operational capability from the same space,” Zunino added.

The new technology has already yielded results. Missile systems maker MBDA created a narrow charge for a bomb last winter that successfully destroyed its targets and nothing else, Popular Science reported Wednesday.

Popular Science reported that while 3-D printing will lead to more creative forms of destruction, the most practical effect in the future will be that the armed services will rapidly get spare parts to troops in the field. The magazine noted that the U.S. Army was able to use Statasys Fortus 3-D printers to get certain mechanical parts to U.S. soldiers deployed to Afghanistan.

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Posted: July 30, 2014 Wednesday 10:00 PM