US arms producer Raytheon says it has manufactured most parts of a guided missile through 3D-printing. The company is working on adding complex electronic circuitry to the list of things that can be fabricated this way.
Researchers at Raytheon Missile Systems currently can 3D-print roughly 80 percent of a missile's components, including rocket engines, fins, parts for the guidance and control systems, and more, the company said.
"You could potentially have these in the field," said Jeremy Danforth, an engineer who has printed working rocket motors. "Machines making machines. The user could [print on demand]. That's the vision."
Producing ordinance tailored for a specific mission on demand is what the Pentagon is looking for. The US military want weapons that can be adapted for a task on hand and obtained with few logistical hurdles.
At the moment, however, 3D printing technology requires the controlled environment of a dedicated factory to work properly. For Raytheon it's about cost efficiency and streamlining production, as it allows shorter development cycles and parts that would be costly or even impossible to machine.