US Army Finds 3D Printing + Shipping Container = Instant Parts

MPH shipping container 3D printing photo interior

Images via Clegg Industries

3D Printing is a great way to reduce inventory shipping costs and make good design accessible to anyone anywhere; PSFK writes that the US Army has been demonstrating the benefits for a couple of years. But there are not a lot of computerized machine tools and 3D printers in Afghanistan, so the Army ordered up the Mobile Parts Hospital, (MPH) with a computerized machine tool inside a shipping container sized box.MPH shipping container 3D printing photo exterior src=
The latest model even has a pop-out for more space, just like an RV.
Strategy Page writes:

In the last six years, MPHs have manufactured over 100,000 parts, on the spot. This saves days, or weeks, that it would take to order the part from the manufacturer, and the MPH part is usually a lot cheaper (because the air freight and manufacturer mark ups to pay for maintaining the part in inventory). The next version of the MPH has a 3-D part builder, which uses metal dust and a laser to build a part.

The plans for the parts are in the cloud or in the machine, and the toolmakers respond to conditions on the ground:

The MPH has a high speed satellite data link, which enables it to obtain the CAD file for a part. Many CAD files are already stored in the MPH. Often, the MPH staff figure out a way to improve a part, based on the broken parts they see, and what the troops tell them.


Hyperlocal manufacturing works for the army, which finds itself in places with lousy and expensive supply lines. As our own supply lines become more expensive, we may find it cheaper to 3D print locally than to mass-produce far away. John Robb at Global Guerrilla writes:

Hyperlocal manufacturing is real. Think of it as one of the economic hearts of a thriving resilient community. It's a revolution already in motion, as you can see in the rapid spread of hackerspaces. Connect these hackerspaces, and the communities they serve, with networks that allow people to share, buy/sell, modify, customize, etc. designs for products/parts, and we are on our a way to a resilient decentralized economy that can survive the economic dislocation to come.


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