Army explores future of 3-D printing

The July/August 2014 issue of Army Technology Magazine focuses on the future of 3-D printing. Download the current issue by following the link on the homepage.

The July/August 2014 issue of Army Technology Magazine focuses on the future of 3-D printing. Download the current issue by following the link on the homepage.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (July 1, 2014) — One day, Soldiers will get critical repair parts at the point of need through innovative, reliable 3-D printing systems. This vision of the future will lift the logistics burden and lighten the load to provide more capabilities at less cost, according to Army researchers.

“Imagine the possibilities of three-dimensional printed textiles, metals, integrated electronics, biogenetic materials and even food,” said Dale A. Ormond, director, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. “Army researchers are exploring the frontiers of an exciting technology.”

3-D printing is the process of making something from stock materials, such as metal or plastic powder, by adding material in successive layers. It’s also known as additive manufacturing, or AM. In contrast, traditional manufacturing processes often work in the opposite way, by subtracting material through cutting, grinding, milling and other methods.

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Army invests in 3-D bioprinting to treat injured Soldiers

Research fellow Dr. Young Joon Seol works on a project to print experimental muscle tissue for reconstructive surgery.  (Photo courtesy Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine)

Research fellow Dr. Young Joon Seol works on a project to print experimental muscle tissue for reconstructive surgery. (Photo courtesy Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine)

By Dan Lafontaine

A team of scientists scans the surface of severely burned skin, creates a three-dimensional map of the wound with a laser, and then prints skin cells onto the patient using a 3-D bioprinter.

Medical specialists are developing methods to transition this research from the laboratory to clinical trials.

The U.S. Army is a significant proponent and investor in regenerative medicine and 3-D bioprinting, according to officials. Scientists are aiming to advance this new research area to help injured service members recover from the wounds of war.

Dr. Michael Romanko, who provides science and technology management support for the Tissue Injury and Regenerative Medicine Project Management Office with the U.S. Army Medical Material Development Activity, said that improvements in body armor, vehicle design and advanced medical care during the past decade led to Soldiers suffering injuries that would have caused fatalities in previous conflicts.

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Natick improves understanding with 3-D printed models

Steve Smith, a graphic designer at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, Natick, Mass., poses with a 3-D and his creations. (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm)

Steve Smith, a graphic designer at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, Natick, Mass., poses with a 3-D and his creations. (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm)

By Jane Benson

Welcome to Steve Smith’s world. It’s a place where big is small, small is big and anything is possible.

Smith works as a graphic designer at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center. The 3-D-printer guru uses the medium to design, make and improve displays. He works closely with NSRDEC scientists and engineers to create something visual and tangible so the average person can garner a better understanding of NSRDEC-developed products and concepts.

“The models help (subject matter experts) explain themselves to their audience more clearly,” Smith said. “People have something they can pick up and see how it works. They can see what the physical science is behind it. It definitely helps a lot of people to see things in a concrete form.”

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Future Soldiers may wear 3-D printed garments, gear

Annette LaFleur, team leader for NSRDEC’s Design, Pattern and Prototype Team, uses a 2D-design program, but she is excited about the possibilities that 3D-printing capabilities hold for her industry and possibly for Soldiers. (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm)

Annette LaFleur, team leader for NSRDEC’s Design, Pattern and Prototype Team, uses a 2-D design program, but she is excited about the possibilities that 3-D printing capabilities hold for her industry and possibly for Soldiers. (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm)

By Jane Benson

Researchers at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center wear many hats and create many products.

“We cover a range of items: field clothing, combat clothing, dress clothing, chem-bio protection, body-armor systems, gloves, hats, helmet covers and experimental garments using new textiles,” said Annette LaFleur, Design, Pattern and Prototype team leader.

The team uses a 2-D design program, and LaFleur is excited about the possibilities that 3-D printing capabilities hold for her industry, in general, and possibly for Soldiers.

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Natick puts rapid in prototyping

Natick engineers use 3-D printed prototypes to perfect Soldier equipment, including the pack frame for the Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment system and fabric attachments for the pack. (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm)

Natick engineers use 3-D printed prototypes to perfect Soldier equipment, including the pack frame for the Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment system and fabric attachments for the pack. (U.S. Army photo by David Kamm)

By Jane Benson

Army engineers are working to create 3-D solid models and prototypes from computer-aided design data. These prototypes enable researchers to evaluate and detect component and system design problems before fabrication.

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center Computer-aided Design and Rapid Prototyping Laboratory uses an additive manufacturing process of selective laser sintering, known as SLS. The printer relies on lasers to sinter, or melt, powdered, nylon materials layer upon layer into a prototype.

Over the years, researchers have created numerous prototypes and product components. NSRDEC engineers created prototypes for the pack frame of the Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment system and fabric attachments for the MOLLE pack itself. Engineers also created a battery case, as well as the individual electronic components contained in the case, which were later tested and used in the field.

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Chow from a 3-D printer? Natick researchers are working on it

Natick food technologists already believe they serve up the best food science can offer. Now they are working to incorporate 3-D printing technology into foods for the warfighter. (U.S. Army Photo by David Kamm)

Natick food technologists already believe they serve up the best food science can offer. Now they are working to incorporate 3-D printing technology into foods for the warfighter. (U.S. Army Photo by David Kamm)

By Jane Benson

Army researchers are investigating ways to incorporate 3-D printing technology into producing food for Soldiers.

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Lauren Oleksyk is a food technologist investigating 3-D applications for food processing and product development. She leads a research team within the Combat Feeding Directorate.

“The mission of CFD’s Food Processing, Engineering and Technology team is to advance novel food technologies,” Oleksyk said. “The technologies may or may not originate at NSRDEC, but we will advance them as needed to make them suitable for military field feeding needs. We will do what we can to make them suitable for both military and commercial applications.”

On a recent visit to the nearby the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, NSRDEC food technologist Mary Scerra met with experts to discuss the feasibility and applications of using 3-D printing to produce innovative military rations.

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3-D printers cut costs, turnaround time for Army depots

Engineering Tech Mikael Mead of Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pa., removes a small production run of finished lens covers from the printing tray of a PolyJet 3-D printer. Three-dimensional printers produce parts out of plastic and other durable materials. (Photo by Tony Medici)

Engineering Tech Mikael Mead of Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pa., removes a small production run of finished lens covers from the printing tray of a PolyJet 3-D printer. Three-dimensional printers produce parts out of plastic and other durable materials. (Photo by Tony Medici)

By Justin Eimers

Engineers and technicians at Tobyhanna Army Depot in Tobyanna, Pa., use a highly innovative, cutting-edge fabrication process to significantly cut costs and reduce turnaround time.

The depot’s additive manufacturing process uses two 3-D printers to produce parts out of plastic and other durable materials. Unlike traditional design methods where a part is made from a block of material and the excess is discarded, additive manufacturing uses only material necessary for the part, saving money and minimizing waste.

Corey Sheakoski, electronics engineer in the Production Engineering Directorate’s Mission Software Branch, said the benefits and potential of this process are nearly unlimited.

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Chemical-biological center builds additive manufacturing partnerships

Maryland Del. Mary-Dulany James and James Richardson, Harford County Office of Economic Development, tour Edgewood Chemical Biological Center’s Rapid Technologies Branch,and learn about additive manufacturing from Brad Ruprecht (left), ECBC Technical Director Joseph Wienand and branch chief Rick Moore March 10, 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Conrad Johnson)

Maryland Del. Mary-Dulany James and James Richardson, Harford County Office of Economic Development, tour Edgewood Chemical Biological Center’s Rapid Technologies Branch,and learn about additive manufacturing from Brad Ruprecht (left), ECBC Technical Director Joseph Wienand and branch chief Rick Moore March 10, 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Conrad Johnson)

By ECBC Communications

Additive manufacturing continues to generate a buzz across the nation, while sparking the economy with new design and manufacturing techniques.

The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., is one of a handful of government organizations working with additive manufacturing to provide concept-to-product warfighter solutions faster and for less money.

“We’ve had 3-D printing and 3-D laser scanning capabilities here since the mid-1990s,” said Rick Moore, branch chief of ECBC’s Rapid Technologies and Inspection Branch. “These capabilities help us get equipment in the hands of the warfighter more quickly. It also provides access for other engineering and science groups to design products with multiple design iterations or changes before fully investing critical funds into full production of that item.”

Additive manufacturing is the process of making a three-dimensional solid object of nearly any shape from a digital model. Having this capability has increased the speed of collaboration and innovation as designers work with partners to deliver products to the warfighter or bring them to market.

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Getting to right faster: 3-D printing fosters rapid prototyping

The U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force containerized and deployed two engineering hubs to Afghanistan; each Ex Lab contains a 3-D printer. (U.S. Army Photo)

The U.S. Army Rapid Equipping Force containerized and deployed two engineering hubs to Afghanistan; each Ex Lab contains a 3-D printer. (U.S. Army Photo)

By Master Sgt. Adam Ascipiadis

Combat frequently presents unexpected challenges, demanding rapid solutions. When faced with unique problems, Soldiers often devise quick fixes out of readily available materials. Whether minor changes to procedures or small modifications to equipment, adaptation routinely occurs at the tactical level on the battlefield.

Additive manufacturing, an evolving technology to create 3-D objects by printing layer-upon-layer of thin material, demonstrates the potential to empower such Soldier innovation and foster frontline agility. One organization, the U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force, known as REF, found a practical way for deployed units to take advantage of additive manufacturing technology in theater.

Expeditionary Problem Solving

As part of its mission to equip, insert and assess emerging technologies and rapidly address capability shortfalls, the REF deploys small teams of Soldiers and civilian engineers to forward locations. These teams interface with deployed units, canvass the battlefield for emerging requirements, facilitate solutions and oversee REF products in theater. Before 2012, teams created solutions for Soldiers in workshops located on large forward operating bases; however, engineers faced a limitation. Each hour spent traveling to units in remote locations represented lost design and engineering time.

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DARPA seeks advanced manufacturing standards

Researchers create a rotor preform build using the Sciaky Directed Electron Beam Deposition Process at the Center for Innovative Materials processing through Direct Digital Deposition at Penn State. The initial build plate is 30 inches by 30 inches.

Researchers create a rotor preform build using the Sciaky Directed Electron Beam Deposition Process at the Center for Innovative Materials processing through Direct Digital Deposition at Penn State. The initial build plate is 30 inches by
30 inches. (U.S. Army photo)

By David McNally

Since the early 1970s, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, has been making investments to jump-­start additive manufacturing. However, rapid adoption of advanced manufacturing techniques continues to face steep barriers as the industry seeks confidence that critical parts will perform as predicted. This led DARPA to focus on the issue of how to ensure that the technology meets the technical expectations of the marketplace.

“We looked at setting up the Open Manufacturing program to see if we could build more confidence in these manufacturing technologies so that we can actually realize their potential,” said Michael “Mick” Maher, DARPA Open Manufacturing program manager.

Maher said metallic parts created through additive manufacturing, known as AM, have typically been used for rapid prototyping, not for the actual manufacturing of products.

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Scientists break new ground with 3-D printing composites

Army researchers are conducting case studies to optimize the processing parameters for different  material depositions using its customized 3-D printer.  Researchers like Ricardo Rodriguez hope to someday print large items like a Soldier's helmet with sensing capabilities embedded in hybrid materials, a potential solution they expect to optimize Soldier capabilities while reducing weight. (Photo by Doug LaFon, ARL)

Army researchers are conducting case studies to optimize the processing
parameters for different material depositions using its customized 3-D printer. Researchers like Ricardo Rodriguez hope to someday print large items like a Soldier’s helmet with sensing capabilities embedded in hybrid materials, a potential solution they expect to optimize Soldier capabilities while reducing weight. (Photo by Doug LaFon, ARL)

tJAE

When Army research and development investments in additive manufacturing pay off, future warriors who need hard-to-get devices, such as unmanned aerial vehicles or medical devices, may be able to print them on the spot.

Scientists from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory are searching for materials and technology to create multifunctionality. Larry R. “LJ” Holmes is the principal investigator for the lab’s additive manufacturing material and technology development.

“DoD can’t afford to wait for commercial industry to create this capability. Industry doesn’t inherently understand our specific needs without ARL research informing them,” Holmes said.

Holmes received a patent for a novel additive manufacturing technology used to create micro-composites, which can be tailored for specific end-use applications that require high-strength lightweight materials. The Field-Aided Laminar Composite, or FALCom process. Holmes worked in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison to address the defense science and technology community’s need for agile manufacturing of systems.

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3-D printed metals may transform Army logistics

James Zunino, Picatinny Materials Engineer, displays an object that was created by an additive printing process. 3-D printing gives engineers the flexibility to quickly print items of various shapes, materials and structure.

James Zunino, Picatinny Materials Engineer, displays an object that was created by an additive printing process. 3-D printing gives engineers the flexibility to quickly print items of various shapes, materials and structure.

By Timothy Rider

A Soldier at a forward operating base needs the proper form to recommend an award for a fellow Soldier. He goes online, opens a form, fills in the blanks and hits “PRINT.”

Another Soldier at a FOB needs a part for a weapon trigger assembly. Spare parts are not in storage. He goes online, opens the computer-aided design, or CAD, file for the trigger assembly and hits “PRINT.”

Not to quibble, but James Zunino, a materials engineer for the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, would say that printing gun parts is no problem; it’s just not possible to print qualified gun parts to military standards…yet.

“We’ve made a lot of parts and prototypes,” Zunino said during a discussion about printed metal parts. But none of the parts have undergone a rigorous process to determine whether they were suitable to replace actual weapons parts.

“In theory, if you have a certified operator, certified materials and a certified printer, you can make qualified parts,” Zunino said.

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Director’s Corner: Additive Manufacturing

doa

director

Just around the corner at the intersection of the future and the art of the possible lies a technology that may profoundly change Army logistics and supply. 3-D printing promises dramatic results that will benefit Soldiers.

Imagine the possibilities of three-dimensional printed textiles, metals, integrated electronics, biogenetic materials and even food. Army researchers are exploring the frontiers of an exciting technology.

One day, Soldiers will print critical repair parts at the point of need. With the logistics burden lifted, the Army will be able to lighten the load and provide more capabilities at less cost.

3-D printing is the process of making something from stock materials, such as metal or plastic powder, by adding material in successive layers. It’s also known as additive manufacturing, or AM. In contrast, traditional manufacturing processes often work in the opposite way, by subtracting material through cutting, grinding, milling and other methods.

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Army scientists forecast future warrior needs

Army researchers envision a conceptual protective robotic system: (U.S. Army graphic by Eric Wall)

Army researchers envision a conceptual protective robotic system: (U.S. Army graphic by Eric Wall)

tJAE

 

Ten to 20 years ago, Army scientists were taking on tough challenges, thinking of the future and wondering how to help American warriors win decisively through technological advantages.

“That’s the strength of Army basic research and the essence of our work at the Lab,” said Dr. Patrick J. Baker, director of the laboratory’s Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, U.S. Army Research Laboratory. “We’re taking multidisciplinary approaches to push the frontiers of fundamental science and technology that result in transformational capabilities.”

ARL teams with academia and industry, and other government partners to invest in science and engineering as well as manufacturing expertise needed to drive innovation, she said.

The Army is on the brink of transitioning prototype technologies to military users who need them most, like protective robots.

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Army researchers envision the future

Army Technology Magazine's latest issue is available for download, or to read online (see links in the right-hand column). The May/June 2014 issue features an exclusive interview with Lt. Gen. Keith C. Walker, deputy commanding general, Futures, TRADOC, and director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center. The theme is Soldier of the future.

Army Technology Magazine’s latest issue is available for download, or to read online (see links in the right-hand column). The May/June 2014 issue features an exclusive interview with Lt. Gen. Keith C. Walker, deputy commanding general, Futures, TRADOC, and director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center. The theme is Soldier of the future.

By RDECOM Public AffairsABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (May 1, 2014) — For Army scientists and engineers shaping the technology of the future, the Army of 2025 and beyond is quickly approaching.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno has said in his strategic vision that the Army seeks a lighter, faster and more lethal force of the future. Technology will provide innovative solutions.

“Army researchers within the Army Materiel Command and Research, Development and Engineering Command team achieve innovation by imagining something and then creating an idea or concept that can change the nature of the fight,” said RDECOM Director Dale A. Ormond. “Future American warriors will depend on technologies that better protect them and prepare them for the fight.”

RDECOM’s strategy ties technology development together, from lethality to protection, according to Ormond, whose teams are working on improving ground vehicles, Army aircraft, missiles, chemical-biological defense, body armor and more.

“In the future, quantum communications will enable entangled atoms to pass information with no apparent connection,” Ormond said. “This means bandwidth will not be an issue. It also means secure communications. We are working on this with the University of Maryland.”

Army researchers focus on developing capabilities to meet the requirements laid out by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

“We must deliver capabilities focused on the priority needs of our primary customer, the warfighter,” said Lt. Gen. Keith C. Walker, deputy commanding general, Futures, TRADOC, and director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center. “With this focus, we need scientists, researchers and engineers to provide the Army with potential solutions that include realistic assessments of technical and integration risks.”

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Director’s Corner: Soldier of the Future

Director's Corner director

Science-fiction writers envision technologies that scientists and engineers often create in the future. Consider the smartphone. Once firmly in the realm of science fiction, we use our “communicators” to not only talk to someone on the other side of the globe, but also to schedule our calendars, check e-mail, or access the Internet. Forty years ago, this seemed unattainable.

Yet Army researchers within the Army Materiel Command and Research, Development and Engineering Command team achieves innovation by imagining something and then creating an idea or concept that can change the nature of the fight.

In the future, quantum communications will enable entangled atoms to pass information with no apparent connection. This means bandwidth will not be an issue. It also means secure communications. We are working on this with the University of Maryland.

We are also working closely with the U.S. Special Operations Command on the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS. Sensors will give Soldiers a wealth of information, and the suit will provide better protection, enhanced performance and improved situational awareness.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno wants us to focus on the squad and individual Soldier, and we are focused on lightening the load both physically and cognitively.

As Soldiers access more data, it becomes a constant stream of information. Those of us who remember the early Internet went through this as it matured from a novelty to a vital, yet sometimes overwhelming connection to the world. During the early days of the Internet the trick was to find information. Then it became finding good information. The same is happening to Soldiers. We need to provide the right information at the right time in a form Soldiers can use.  After all, Soldiers use information to make decisions in a split second and often under dire circumstances.

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Army leaders discuss the Army of the future

Gen. Dennis L. Via, commander of Army Materiel Command, briefs the AMC Perspective at the 2014 Winter AUSA Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville, Ala. (U.S. Army photo)

Gen. Dennis L. Via, commander of Army Materiel Command, briefs the AMC Perspective at the 2014 Winter AUSA Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville, Ala. (U.S. Army photo)

AMC

To prepare the Army for tomorrow, the seeds must be planted today, according to Army leaders at 2014 Association of the United States Army’s Winter Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville, Ala., Feb. 19-21. More than 6,400 people attended the event as Soldiers civilians from across the Army joined with industry representatives to share information and talk about the future.

GEN. DENNIS L. VIA

“The theme for this year’s symposium is ‘America’s Army: Sustaining, training, and equipping for the future,’ and I think it is very appropriate,” said Gen. Dennis L. Via, commander of Army Materiel Command, during remarks at the event.

“As our Army continues its transition in Afghanistan, we must simultaneously prepare our Army for the next contingency — for this we can be sure, as history has taught us all too well, there will be a future contingency somewhere in the world that will require ‘boots on the ground,’” he said. “Our forces must be ready, trained and equipped to meet that contingency when the nation calls. Our nation expects and deserves nothing less.”

Diminishing fiscal resources and growing threats drive three priorities for AMC, he said.

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Exclusive Interview with Lt. Gen. Keith C. Walker

Lt. Gen. Keith C. Walker talks about the future.By RDECOM Public Affairs

How does the Army Capabilities Integration Center help shape the future Army?

Walker: ARCIC develops concepts and integrates capabilities across doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities — known as DOTMLPF — warfighting functions and formations. Concepts provide a vision of how the Army will operate and fight in the future. Concepts determine the capabilities future Army formations will need to operate in support of the joint force commander. We compare the required capabilities against the current Army, which serves as a baseline for capability needs analysis, to determine and prioritize future capability requirements. This also allows us to identify key areas for research and development that in turn identify the science and technology investments the Army needs to make today in order to deliver the capability solutions for the future.

What provides the basis for developing future concepts for the Army?

Walker: The future operational environment provides the foundation for concept development. We look at the challenges and threats we will likely face in the future, and through the Campaign of Learning – a series of seminars, wargames, experiments and studies – we assess how the Army can best meet those challenges.

We also adhere to defense planning guidance with 11 military mission areas. The Army is heavily involved in 10 of 11. Everything from defeat and deter, to defend the homeland, to conduct humanitarian and disaster relief. Since we no longer have nuclear weapons in our formations, nuclear deterrence is not an Army mission area. This guidance describes a very wide range of operations that Army formations must conduct. The breadth of missions reflects exactly what the Army does for the nation. Secretary of War Lindley Miller Garrison, addressing the West Point Class of 1914, stated, “The American Army has become the all-around handy man of the government.” He continued: “You may be called upon at anytime to do any kind of service in any part of the world – and if you would not fall below the standard your fellows have set, you must be ready and you must do it, and you must do it well.” You must ask if the Army cannot do all the various missions and tasks the nation needs us to do, what good are we.

Additionally, our adversaries will continue to leverage the proliferation of technology and the exponential increase in information exchange to challenge the United States in an asymmetric manner. Specifically, future adversaries will attempt to negate our nation’s technological advantage and long-range precision strike capabilities. That said, conflict has and always will be a human endeavor. The human aspects of conflict will remain the focus of the Army.

We do not have a crystal ball, and our best projections of the future will not be 100-percent accurate. However, the art and science of concept development attempts to be not too far wrong. Our goal is to develop concepts that lead to a flexible and adaptive Army that is capable of addressing emerging threats across the range of military operations even when those operations were not predicted.

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Military research aims to lighten the load through innovation

DARPA's Warrior Web program seeks to create a soft, lightweight under-suit that would help reduce injuries and fatigue and improve Soldiers' ability to efficiently perform their missions. DARPA provided photographs of three prototypes currently under development. (DoD photo)

DARPA’s Warrior Web program seeks to create a soft, lightweight under-suit that would help reduce injuries and fatigue and improve Soldiers’ ability to efficiently perform their missions. (DoD photo)

By David McNally

Dismounted Soldiers carrying full battle gear are pushed to their physical limits. Army missions demand speed, stealth and stamina with a Soldier often hefting 100 pounds or more of essentials. How will a Soldier of the future maintain the decisive edge in spite of this challenge? The answer may be in innovations developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

“That load is a critical issue,” said Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, who until recently was Warrior Web program manager. “In Warrior Web, we want to explore approaches which make that kind of load feel, in terms of the effort to carry it, as if its weight has been cut in half. That’s the goal.”

DARPA launched the Warrior Web program in September 2011, seeking to create a soft, lightweight undersuit to help reduce injuries and fatigue while improving mission performance.

“The number one reason for discharge from the military in recent years is musculoskeletal injury,” Hitt said. “Warrior Web is specifically being designed to address the key injuries at the ankle, knee, hip, lower back and shoulders.”

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Special Operations Command leads development of ‘Iron Man’ suit

IRON MAN

By Donna Miles

The U.S. Special Operations Command is using unprecedented outreach and collaboration to develop something special with revolutionary capabilities.

The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is the vision of Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, SOCOM’s commander. He challenged industry and defense representatives at a SOCOM conference in May 2013 to come up with the concepts and technologies to make the suit a reality. The goal is to offer operators better protection, enhanced performance and improved situational awareness.

McRaven spoke more recently at a February 2014 National Defense Industry Association Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict symposium in Washington.

“The TALOS program is a collaboration of efforts,” McRaven said. “We are teaming with 56 corporations, 16 government agencies, 13 universities, and 10 national laboratories and we are leveraging the expertise of leading minds throughout the country to redefine the state of the art in survivability and operator capability.

“This innovative approach brings together the brightest minds in a national effort and we are already seeing astounding results in this collaboration. If we do TALOS right it will be a huge comparative advantage over our enemies and give our warriors the protection they need in a very demanding environment.”

Exactly what capabilities the TALOs will deliver is not yet clear, explained Michael Fieldson, SOCOM’s TALOS project manager. The goal is to provide operators lighter, more efficient full-body ballistics protection and super-human strength. Antennas and computers embedded into the suit will increase the wearer’s situational awareness by providing user-friendly and real-time battlefield information.

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