Rapid Fab A Fly Tox


A few days back I caught a link somewhere to Defense Tech’s article “Tomorrow’s Insta-Weapons” (Link). That of course brought to mind my own posts on the subject here, like “The Kirkyan Weapon” (reLink). But the article – and most of the comments on it – are, in my opinion, too focused on CNC (computer numerically-controlled) machining. Not that many of the comments aren’t valid; they are. Fabbing metal components just isn’t commonplace in today’s world. But it’s just a matter of time until metal rapid-manufacturing units do make their way to the battlefield.

Additionally, some of the comments seemed ignorant of the fact that the crystalline lattice structure that makes forging so necessary (cited by some as a reason battlefield fabrication is over-hyped), is somewhat matched by the metal laser melting fabbing tech. In fact, some of the most difficult components, jet turbine blades, are already being rapid-fabbed using MLM and tested. These critical components may not have long-term durability, but then it’s a weapon. We kind of expect fabbed weapons to be short-lived, don’t we?

One last thought that struck me was that the thinking of the people commenting (who I suspect are defense industry employees) was very Macro. That seems shortsighted to me. As I stated in my comment on the Defense Tech site, it’s not the big stuff that seems most applicable, but the Micro things; a “swarm of wasp-size robots carrying lethal doses of poison (which) could wreak havoc on an enemy“, for example. Why make jets that carry people when you can make remotely-controlled drones?

Which leads me to the above image, courtesy of sculptor Lewis Tardy’s very cool website (Link) brought to my attention by the Make: blog. That’s kind of what I was imagining right there. Imagine setting up a container-sized weapon fabrication lab that cranked out hundreds or thousands of those things. Imagine that they had short-range Wi-Fi capability to permit them to use a swarming algorithm, and a receiver that could pick up a long-range transmission (and by long-range I’m talking a couple of miles) for local control.

That’s the issue. Not fabbing an F-18 Hornet, but something more like a real hornet. With teeth. And lots of ’em.

{Update: some related entries:

“SkyNet Rising” – reLink
“The Ultimate ARG (or This Is Not A Videogame)” – reLink
“The Tracking SWARM” – reLink

There are more floating in here, but that should suffice.}

{Image Copyright © Lewis Tardy}