3D printing is starting to be realized in a wide variety of industries, but its potential in the aerospace and defense industry is significant. The 3D printing industry was worth $3bn in 2013 and grew to $7bn in 2017. By 2025, the market is forecast to account for more than $20bn in spend, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
The company’s report, ‘3D Printing in Aerospace & Defence – Thematic Research’, reveals that most major militaries and companies are exploring options with the technology. Some are still in the testing phase, while others are deploying the technology in final production. This is particularly true in the aerospace industry, where engines, aircraft and satellites are currently using 3D-printed components.
Listed below are the militaries that have taken an early lead in implementing 3D printing technology, as identified by GlobalData.
US Marine Corps
The US Marine Corps currently has the highest uptake of 3D printing of any military service worldwide. In particular, the additive manufacturing team at Marine Corps Systems Command has created the world’s largest 3D concrete printer with the ability to print a 500-square-foot barracks hut in 40 hours.
US Air Force
The US Air Force is integrating 3D printing into its supply chain. Overseen by ‘America Makes’, the US national additive manufacturing/3D printing innovation institute, it is investigating how current systems can be used to reproduce aircraft components for decades-old planes that may no longer have reliable sources of replacement parts, without minimum order quantities.
The Navy has created new logistical units such as Navy frontline attachments, which can rapidly create spare parts for incredibly complex military equipment such as the F-35B – and are currently operational for this purpose. The navy has also worked with Oak Ridge National laboratory to produce the first 3D-printed submarine hull.
The US Army is working on 3D-printed, modular drone systems. The army wants 3D printers that can be deployed to a forward base camp and used to produce aviation backup when necessary for troops on the ground. This plan aims to create bespoke unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems and is said to be at an advanced stage of development.
Chinese Air Force
A 3D Systems ProJet 4500 printer has been acquired by the Chinese army and has been working on replacement military truck parts for the army’s fuel tanker fleet. A number of Chinese fighter jets are believed to be carrying 3D-printed parts and are currently in operation.
Russia has been testing multiple applications for 3D-printed parts in its newest main battle tank, the T-14 Armata. During the development process, 3D printing was used for prototyping, but it is expected that parts will be used in the final product, of which 2,300 have been ordered.
South Korean Air Force
Collaboration between South Korea’s InssTEK and France’s Z3DLAB is producing parts for South Korean warplanes that see heavy use along the border with North Korea. The aim is to upgrade existing components, rather than replace worn parts, with a new titanium composite material.
Information based on GlobalData’s report: ‘3D Printing in Aerospace & Defence – Thematic Research’.
SA’s Internet goes down again
South Africa is about to experience a small repeat of the lower speeds and loss of Internet connectivity suffered in January, thanks to a new undersea cable break, writes BRYAN TURNER
Internet service provider Afrihost has notified customers that there are major outages across all South African Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as a result of a break in the WACS undersea cable between Portugal and England
The cause of the cable break along the cable is unclear. it marks the second major breakage event along the West African Internet sea cables this year, and comes at the worst possible time: as South Africans grow heavily dependent on their Internet connections during the COVID-19 lockdown.
As a result of the break, the use of international websites and services, which include VPNs (virtual private networks), may result in latency – decreased speeds and response times.
WACS runs from Yzerfontein in the Western Cape, up the West Coast of Africa, and terminates in the United Kingdom. It makes a stop in Portugal before it reaches the UK, and the breakage is reportedly somewhere between these two countries.
The cable is owned in portions by several companies, and the portion where the breakage has occurred belongs to Tata Communications.
The alternate routes are:
- SAT3, which runs from Melkbosstrand also in the Western Cape, up the West Coast and terminates in Portugal and Spain. This cable runs nearly parallel to WACS and has less Internet capacity than WACS.
- ACE (Africa Coast to Europe), which also runs up the West Coast.
- The SEACOM cable runs from South Africa, up the East Coast of Africa, terminating in both London and Dubai.
- The EASSy cable also runs from South Africa, up the East Coast, terminating in Sudan, from where it connects to other cables.
The routes most ISPs in South Africa use are WACS and SAT3, due to cost reasons.
The impact will not be as severe as in January, though. All international traffic is being redirected via alternative cable routes. This may be a viable method for connecting users to the Internet but might not be suitable for latency-sensitive applications like International video conferencing.
SA cellphones to be tracked to fight coronavirus
Several countries are tracking cellphones to understand who may have been exposed to coronavirus-infected people. South Africa is about to follow suit, writes BRYAN TURNER
From Israel to South Korea, governments and cell networks have been implementing measures to trace the cellphones of coronavirus-infected citizens, and who they’ve been around. The mechanisms countries have used have varied.
In Iran, citizens were encouraged to download an app that claimed to diagnose COVID-19 with a series of yes or no questions. The app also tracked real-time location with a very high level of accuracy, provided by the GPS sensor.
In Germany, all cellphones on Deutsche Telekom are being tracked through cell tower connections, providing a much coarser location, but a less invasive method of tracking. The data is being handled by the Robert Koch Institute, the German version of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Taiwan, those quarantined at home are tracked via an “electronic fence”, which determines if users leave their homes.
In South Africa, preparations have started to track cellphones based on cell tower connections. The choice of this method is understandable, as many South Africans may either feel an app is too intrusive to have installed, or may not have the data to install the app. This method also allows more cellphones, including basic feature phones, to be tracked.
This means that users can be tracked on a fairly anonymised basis, because these locations can be accurate to about 2 square kilometers. Clearly, this method of tracking is not meant to monitor individual movements, but rather gain a sense of who’s been around which general area.
This data could be used to find lockdown violators, if one considers that a phone connecting in Hillbrow for the first 11 days of lockdown, and then connecting in Morningside for the next 5, likely indicates a person has moved for an extended period of time.
Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said that South African network providers have agreed to provide government with location data to help fight COVID-19.
Details on how the data will be used, and what it will used to determine, are still unclear.