Before the first warship ever set sail, its crew was faced with a serious constraint: limited space. Through centuries, navies have improved on that front, with dense foods, hammocks or bunkbeds layered tight, and with careful planning of what precisely is needed, plus a fleet of logistical resupply ships to fetch spare parts as needed. On that last front, the future offers a bold possibility: 3D printing what's needed, storing only the raw material for the printer instead of a highly specialized selection of one-use parts.
American air dominance has long rested on staying technologically ahead of the enemy. With high-speed stealth design, advanced avionics, and integrated computing, the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II is built to keep that edge for the United States and its allies. The problem—aside from a spate of cost overruns, malfunctions, and delays—is that other countries are no longer far behind.
Designed by Defense Distributed, the 3D printed Liberator pistol is both a revolutionary concept and a profoundly mediocre gun. The Liberator is the world's first successful 3D printed gun, capable of firing a single bullet, with only a modest risk of exploding in the hand of the shooter. Shortly after it's creation, the State Department moved to block the group sharing the file online. Now, a proposed rule change to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations could keep all files for 3D printed guns offline.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is, like a fledgling bird, starting to stretch its wings and show off the latest tricks it can do. Of the three similar planes in the F-35 family, the Marine Corps F-35B has by far the most tricks to show off. Designed for short takeoffs and vertical landings, the F-35B can vector its thruster down like a squatting dog, either gently easing itself down onto a ship's landing deck or launching into the sky with great force off a ramp.