China’s largest missile maker uses 3D printing to speed up production –


One thing about war is that military men never come into conflict with each other only on the battlefield itself. Indeed, during the more than forty years of Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, the two superpowers never confronted each other directly. Instead, America and Russia have clashed in many ways outside of active combat. This led to a situation in which each society was essentially an experiment in developing the most cutting-edge approaches to modern warfare. Sometimes the motives for competition were immediately tied to battlefield preparation, such as each nation’s development of its own body armor technologies. In other cases, like the space race, the relevance to war was a bit more abstract.

In the “new” Cold War, between the United States and China, we see much the same range of more and less explicitly combat-related projects. The main difference is that the military intent is, in any case, more obviously integrated into the design of the all the two companies care more than ever. In this sense, considering the application in recent years of additive manufacturing (AM) to almost every military objective you can think of (including missiles), it is not surprising that China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC), the largest missile in the producing country, uses AM.

An example highlighted in a recent China Daily The item was a missile rudder, usually machined from metal billets, resulting in material waste. A senior technician from CASIC’s Third Academy, Zhang Chunu, told China Daily, “It takes about one to two months for dozens of technicians and workers to make a gas rudder (used on a cruise missile) with traditional machining methods because it involves a succession of processes such as casting and welding. …But now, thanks to 3D printing technology, a handful of workers can make a rudder in a week. The procedure enabled by 3D printing can save us a lot of manpower, time and money, and is much better than mechanical machining when it comes to controlling the weight and precision of our products.

Image courtesy of CASIC.

Again, this is not so surprising, given the similar AM results reported by US military hardware manufacturers, who have increasingly adopted advanced manufacturing techniques into their production processes. On the other hand, there’s a candor and honesty about the issues here that you don’t typically get from the aforementioned US reports. If, given the context, this honesty can’t be called refreshing, it does at least help put world news into perspective. The idea of ​​an ‘arms race’, so central to the Cold War, has never gone away and is in fact now being put into practice in the most brutal way possible.

Zhang also cited other benefits of AM, including smoother surfaces and better production efficiency, but overall the benefits all basically come down to speed. An engineer from the company claimed that 3D printing has increased the “raw material utilization rate by tens of times” for large missile parts. He added that a division within CASIC, the Third Academy, is the biggest user of AM in China’s aerospace industry. Beyond rudders, the company uses AM for cruise missile parts that include engines and fuselage panels. CASIC engineers will work with academy designers to also leverage AM for future missile concepts.

“Designers can determine which components can be ‘printed’. This technology can give engineers more room for imagination and innovation and enable them to design advanced and sophisticated components that would be difficult to manufacture for traditional methods but easy for 3D printers,” Zhang said. “It’s no exaggeration to say that 3D printing technology will revolutionize missile design work.”

Manufacturer of weapons such as the LW-30 road mobile laser defense system and the CM-401 supersonic anti-ship ballistic missile, CASIC achieved revenues of approximately $34.7 billion in 2017. The company works with a wide range of companies based in a variety of countries. This included supplying carrier erection launchers to North Korea, as well as launching Industry 4.0-style manufacturing programs with Siemens in Germany. Its programs have expanded beyond missile production to include crewed spaceflight and an industrial cloud.

Concept art of the HT-1E Universal Airborne Vertical Launch System in action @CASIC Via Chinese state media.

Concept art of the HT-1E Universal Airborne Vertical Launch System in action @CASIC Via Chinese state media.

I have asked this type of question before, and even if it seems almost pointless to ask it in the current climate of opinion, I raise it again: have we really need constantly increase the rate of missile production? More broadly, is technology actually an ethically neutral sphere of human reality, or has everyone just decided to believe it because it’s the most practical solution? In other words, if humanity really wants to take control of its own future, people are probably going to have to start taking a look at the infrastructure of their environment and wondering if amorality is built in. in the design.


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