James Bond and the U.S. Military Find New Uses for 3-D Printing

It’s not just for hermit crab shells anymore.

A hermit crab in the process of moving into its new 3D-printed home, via Architizer

Car enthusiasts’ hearts must have been all a-flutter watching “Skyfall” as 007’s precious 1960 Aston Martin DB 5 blew to pieces [whoops, spoiler alert], but they can dry their eyes now and rest assured that no automotive icons were harmed in the making of this film. The good people behind the Bond franchise actually recreated the car on a 1:3 scale with the help of 3-D printing company Voxeljet, opting to destroy that in the automotive icon’s stead.

The original James Bond with an actual 1960 Aston Martin DB 5

The replica, via Gizmodo

It’s a development that bodes well for the manufacturing method’s inroads into mainstream use, especially as the U.S. military is increasing investments in it at the same time. Following the $2.8-million shipping container mobile printing labs deployed in Southern Afghanistan this July, they’ve just announced the development of  a 3-D printer small and light enough for soldiers to carry in a backpack, the benefits of which would be enormous. Individuals would be able to reproduce their own spare parts for essential equipment — GPS receivers, air drones, artillery — on the battlefield, on the spot, rather than waiting for lengthy shipping times. At $695, it’s also a steal (a Makerbot home desktop 3-D printer goes for about $2,000).

Now that 3-D printing has made its way into our movies and our military, its potential to revolutionize our manufacturing methods on the level that the Ford assembly line did seems more within our grasp. Last year we covered 3-D printing as a futuristic technology, but its cost prohibitiveness limited it to very specialized uses (face transplants, for example, as well as the quick production of prosthetic limbs, highly intricate design objects, nifty hermit crab homes, and action figures of yourself). The more uses we find for the technology, however, and the more big name investors it finds, the less far into the future it seems. In the meantime, it seems to be boding poorly for bad guys (a wholly relative statement, of course,  depending on whose side you’re on). [Gizmodo, DezeenWire, Military.com]

— Janelle Zara