The U.S. Army Is Working on 3D Printed Body Armor

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New research into 3D printing technology could someday lead to the U.S. military 3D printing body armor for soldiers. The technology, which looks to abalone shells for inspiration, could allow units to print armor themselves, foregoing a cumbersome supply process. Researchers at the Army Research Laboratory, according to The National Interest, are developing ways to 3D print ceramic materials.

Ceramics are more difficult to 3D print than plastics or metals, but they are also a key component of body armor designed to protect soldiers from bullets and shrapnel on the battlefield. ARL researchers are looking to the graded nature of an abalone shell—built up layer upon layer over time by the single-shell mollusk—for inspiration.