The Impact of 3D Printing on Defense: Pioneering Advanced Weaponry in Global Conflicts


DARPA hypersonic air-breathing weapon concept that could utilize 3D printing [Source: Defense News]

Charles R. Goulding and Preeti Sulibhavi discuss how 3D printing advancements are aiding the US and its allies in addressing conflicts by enabling rapid and innovative production of military equipment.

The world finds itself with two major conflicts where the US and its allies need to supply large volumes of conventional weapons that haven’t been stockpiled. 

3D printing technology has made great advancements since these conventional weapons were originally designed and produced.

Keith DeVries, who holds the position of Deputy Director in the Manufacturing Technology Program of the Secretary of Defense’s Office, commented in a webcast by Defense News in September 2023, about the significant achievements and opportunities additive manufacturing has introduced in terms of producing new weapons and components.

DeVries further explained how additive manufacturing has played a crucial role in the development of new systems, as it enables rapid crafting of complex components, outweighing conventional manufacturing processes.

He drew attention to the evolution of 3D printing technologies which has transitioned from developing objects using delicate polymers to those with better tensile strength. DeVries pointed out that state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques have integrated high-entropy metals, recognized for their superior strength and durability. This process involves the use of lasers to melt high temperature-resistant metals, thus making the production of complex geometries possible. Such features are vital for the fabrication of military gear and ammunition.

Israel vs Hamas

The Iron Dome, or Kippat Barzel in Hebrew, is widely considered a crucial component of Israel’s defense strategy. This versatile, all-weather defense system was designed to safeguard Israeli citizens by launching targeted missiles to intercept incoming rockets while they are still mid-flight.

The widespread view is that Israel should upgrade the Rafael Iron Dome. The system first came into use in 2011. Although it has successfully deflected numerous rockets, preventing harm to civilians, the technology now seems obsolete, especially considering the advances made in 3D printing over the past dozen or so years.

In June 2023, Raphael Advanced Defense Systems, the provider of the Iron Dome suite of multi-mission defense systems, entered into a partnership with Germany’s HENSOLDT Sensors GmbH. Under this partnership, they will cooperatively develop state-of-the-art solutions focusing on the SPICE 250 ER (Extended Range) system. HENSOLDT is recognized for its expertise in 3D printing. Notably, in recent times, HENSOLDT has embarked on a partnership with Nano Dimension to develop specialized electronic solutions for the defense sector. Nano Dimension is reputable for its 3D printing of electronics, and HENSOLDT is looking for ways to manufacture products and components with built-in capabilities. This will involve multiple sensors and a modular approach to design.

Caption: HENSOLDT and Nano Dimension executives collaborating on ways to 3D print for defense. Source: Printing and Manufacturing Journal

Ukraine vs Russia

The war in Ukraine has been a battle that has utilized 3D printers for military support. To deploy equipment, such as 3D printers, to Ukraine for systems integration, procurement, sourcing, freight forwarding, mission support, and program management, is no easy task. To keep supply chains open, Essentium has partnered with KVG, a logistics company specializing in the aforementioned system integration tasks, to deploy a number of Essentium’s HSE systems to the frontlines in Ukraine. Essentium believes that the 3D printers will improve Ukraine’s defense response capabilities in real time because of the rapid production of diverse mission-critical parts and equipment in the field.

NATO has even introduced a fund to invest in global startups focused on defense technologies.

The Navy has been putting a particular emphasis on 3D printing metal technology for submarines. We have covered these developments previously in multiple General Dynamics and Electric Boat articles.

The conflict between Ukraine and Israel inevitably involves U.S. submarines, although for crucial security responsibilities, their exact participation cannot be traced.

Top military organizations including the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and the Department of Defense (DOD) are actively functioning on breakthrough 3D printing technology. They are also assisting each other with the details on development in 3D printing technology, which in turn, promotes faster innovation. Similarly, the comprehensive military supply chain is gradually integrating more applications of 3D printing technology in their drafting and production procedures.

The Research & Development Tax Credit

The Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit, which is now a lasting provision, is accessible for enterprises evolving new or amplified products, practices, or software.

3D printing can significantly contribute to a company’s R&D Tax Credits. The salaries of technical employees involved in the creation, testing, and modification of 3D printed prototypes can be considered as a part of the eligible time spent for the R&D Tax Credit. Similarly, time invested in integrating 3D printing hardware and software for process improvement is also eligible. Additionally, the expenses incurred for filaments used during the developmental stages can be recuperated.

Whether utilized for prototyping, testing, or final production, 3D printing is a powerful sign that R&D Credit qualifying activities are happening. Companies that have adopted this technology at any juncture should think about capitalizing on the R&D Tax Credits.


Given the ongoing wars and the rising geopolitical instability in nations like China, Russia, and Iran, the crucial role of technology, particularly 3D printing, cannot be overlooked. In fact, these global incidents should act as a catalyst for the 3D printing industry to actively participate in the enhancement of current weaponry and military equipment.

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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