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Thread: Counterinsurgents Should Consider A "Fabrication Cell"

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Counterinsurgents Should Consider A "Fabrication Cell"

    5 July SWJ Blog - Counterinsurgents Should Consider A "Fabrication Cell" by Captain Josh Manchester.

    A few years ago, a bunch of smart guys at MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms decided to teach a new course and open it up to any student -- not just engineering and computer science types. The course was called "How To Make (Almost) Anything." The instructors had developed a suite of off-the-shelf equipment that, when worked by those with a modicum of training, could enable students to quite literally make almost anything. They called it a "FabLab." The equipment and materials for one such Fablab cost around $20,000, and included such capabilities as the ability to print circuit boards, injection-mold plastic, and cut and fashion materials to exact tolerances. One of the professors, Neil Gershenfeld, went on to describe how the phenomenon played out in a book entitled FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop: From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication. Essentially, the professors were surprised to find that a large number of those interested in the course had nothing to do with traditional disciplines involved in designing and making stuff. Gershenfeld took his Fablabs on the road to a variety of settings -- a low-income neighborhood in Boston, developing areas in South Africa, Costa Rica, and India, and other places such as Norway. He discovered that with a tiny bit of instruction, even people with no engineering backgrounds were able to conceive of and create a number of devices and contraptions to enhance their lives in one way or another. These ranged from the MIT student who created an alarm clock with wheels that had to be chased around the room in order to be turned off, to farmers in India who created a variety of means to better monitor their dairy production.

    Ultimately, Gershenfeld envisions not a roomful of equipment, but a single machine that might sit on your desktop and be able to "print" complex objects in 3D. But this is far down the road and far removed from our concerns here...

    What does this have to do with counterinsurgency?...

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    If I may share part from a letter received from a SF Engineering Sgt. currently in Afghanistan:

    We don't need converters (Note: Referring to Step up/Step down power converters; 110/220). We do need tools, electric soldering kits, Allen key kits, Jewelers tool kits (screw drivers), pocket knives, Gerber/Leatherman tools, and any cordless tool you can think of. We have tools, but they get used so much and the re-supply system is a little slow. As for electronics, we can really use external hard drives with large capacity, laptop cooling stations, USB jump drives, and small wireless mice. You asked, so there you go.
    We always ask in our letters if there is anything special they can use, because we can tend to pick all sorts of stuff up. So, our guys over there took us up on the offer.

    If this letter is any indication, a "Fabrication Cell" would be a brilliant investment, as long as they included all the "small odds and ends" that you have to have to make operation of such a "Fabrication Cell" successful.

    Btw, just for information, we have/are sending them the following materials (what we would consider the "odds and ends" type materials):

    3.6 volt lithium-ion cordless drill (small, light, portable)
    Dremel cordless Stylus tool with charger
    About 400+ different Dremel accessories
    Jeweler's screwdriver sets
    USB 2.0 256Mb. & 512Mb flash drives
    Tubes/spools of every type of solder on the market
    Cordless (AA battery) soldering irons
    Pin drills and number series drill bits
    3/8" 45 degree right angle drill with regular drill bits
    Full set of spade bits (wood boring drill bits)
    Stacks of heat shrink tubing
    Gerbers with accessory kits
    Specialized screw assortments (optical, watch type parts)
    Tweezers (actually, the best tweezers we found came as part of Chinese made dissection kits).
    Cordless mouse (notebook)

    Any suggestions on what else we could add would be appreciated.
    Last edited by Watcher In The Middle; 07-06-2007 at 06:29 PM.

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Default My Initial Thought on Reading This Was...

    Quote Originally Posted by SWJED View Post
    5 July SWJ Blog - Counterinsurgents Should Consider A "Fabrication Cell" by Captain Josh Manchester.
    What is to prevent insurgents and terrorists from making insidious use of such a machine, thus further complicating the job of counterinsurgents?

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    Default Steve,

    one of my colleagues opens a paper about relative speed of adaptation with an old joke.

    Two sleeping hunters, Abe and Bob, are awakened by the sound of a bear rummaging through their cooler. Abe starts putting on his shoes as fast as possible. "That's pretty stupid," Bob says, "you can't outrun a bear." "I don't need to outrun the bear," Abe replies, "I just have to outrun you."

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    Everything you'll ever need to know is right here. No need to take a college course in anything.

    http://www.lindsaybks.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by Watcher In The Middle View Post
    3.6 volt lithium-ion cordless drill (small, light, portable)
    Dremel cordless Stylus tool with charger
    About 400+ different Dremel accessories
    Jeweler's screwdriver sets
    USB 2.0 256Mb. & 512Mb flash drives
    Tubes/spools of every type of solder on the market
    Cordless (AA battery) soldering irons
    Pin drills and number series drill bits
    3/8" 45 degree right angle drill with regular drill bits
    Full set of spade bits (wood boring drill bits)
    Stacks of heat shrink tubing
    Gerbers with accessory kits
    Specialized screw assortments (optical, watch type parts)
    Tweezers (actually, the best tweezers we found came as part of Chinese made dissection kits).
    Cordless mouse (notebook)

    Any suggestions on what else we could add would be appreciated.

    Just a few items....

    Multiple assorted fuses
    Spare Power cording and cordsets
    Switches
    x-actor knife set
    Battery powered Voltometer
    Punch set
    Example is better than precept.

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    Default "Fab@Home" - "Open Source" development. Interesting....

    Here's the link to the "Fab@Home" page:

    FAB@Home Link

    This thing is really pretty cool. Right now, it's kind of limited. But if you need a way to fabricate different types of small parts, this thing has potential. And it's also all "Open Source", so you avoid all the licensing costs.

    And the cost ($3995 complete) is actually not bad considering up to now it would have been probably triple, if not considerably more.
    Last edited by Watcher In The Middle; 11-04-2007 at 01:09 AM. Reason: Spelling.

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits, by Chris Anderson. Wired, Feb 2010.
    Here’s the history of two decades in one sentence: If the past 10 years have been about discovering post-institutional social models on the Web, then the next 10 years will be about applying them to the real world.

    This story is about the next 10 years.

    Transformative change happens when industries democratize, when they’re ripped from the sole domain of companies, governments, and other institutions and handed over to regular folks. The Internet democratized publishing, broadcasting, and communications, and the consequence was a massive increase in the range of both participation and participants in everything digital — the long tail of bits.

    Now the same is happening to manufacturing — the long tail of things.

    The tools of factory production, from electronics assembly to 3-D printing, are now available to individuals, in batches as small as a single unit. Anybody with an idea and a little expertise can set assembly lines in China into motion with nothing more than some keystrokes on their laptop. A few days later, a prototype will be at their door, and once it all checks out, they can push a few more buttons and be in full production, making hundreds, thousands, or more. They can become a virtual micro-factory, able to design and sell goods without any infrastructure or even inventory; products can be assembled and drop-shipped by contractors who serve hundreds of such customers simultaneously.

    Today, micro-factories make everything from cars to bike components to bespoke furniture in any design you can imagine. The collective potential of a million garage tinkerers is about to be unleashed on the global markets, as ideas go straight into production, no financing or tooling required. “Three guys with laptops” used to describe a Web startup. Now it describes a hardware company, too.

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    Default Mobile Technology Complex

    The Bottomless Cargo Container, Strategy Page, 14 August 2010.
    August 14, 2010: U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has adopted an old U.S. Army concept to create mobile workshops (MTCs or Mobile Technology Complex) that can fix exotic gear (which SOCOM has a lot of), modify their special gear, or even create something new. The MTC is a modified (with new some gear) version of the decade old U.S. Army MPH (Mobile Parts Hospital).
    h/t: John Robb; "Forget Afghanistan, These are Needed in Detroit etc."

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    3D printing: The world's first printed plane, by Paul Marks. The New Scientist, 29 July 2011.
    The promise of 3D printing has finally taken off with the development of a drone that takes just a week to create

    Under darkening skies on a grass airstrip in the UK's Wiltshire Downs, north of Stonehenge, I am watching half a dozen aeronautical engineers rushing to assemble an uncrewed aircraft before the weather takes a turn for the worse. They are hoping to show how 3D printing will revolutionise the economics of aircraft design – by flying the world's first fully "printed" plane.

    Led by Andy Keane and Jim Scanlan of the University of Southampton, the team believes that 3D printing will soon allow uncrewed aircraft known as drones or UAVs to go from the drawing board to flight in a matter of days. No longer, they say, will one design of UAV be repeatedly manufactured on a production line. Instead, designers will be able to fine-tune a UAV for each specific application – whether it be crop spraying, surveillance or infrared photography – and then print a bespoke plane on demand.

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    bourbon, great article, much thanks for posting. The impact of this technology and associated open system processes on legacy industries is already having a significant impact, and probably will fall in the category of one the technologies that enabled creative destruction to the existing order over time.

    From a defense perspective we of course need to view it from at least two perspectives. First how can we leverage this technology, and second how can our foes leverage it and what does that mean to us?

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    Default And in other news...

    LINK.

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    This was commissioned by The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy last year:

    Factory@Home: The Emerging Economy of Personal Manufacturing – Overview and Recommendations
    , by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman. US Office of Science and Technology Policy; Series of Occasional Papers in Science and Technology Policy, December 2010. (PDF)
    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

    This report outlines the emergence of personal manufacturing technologies, describes their potential economic and social benefits, and recommends programs the government should consider to realize this potential.

    Personal manufacturing machines, sometimes called “fabbers,” are the pint‐sized, low‐cost descendants of factory‐scale, mass manufacturing machines. Personal‐scale manufacturing machines use the same fabrication methods as their larger, industrial ancestors, but are smaller, cheaper, and easier to use. Home‐scale machines, such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and programmable sewing machines, combined with the right electronic design blueprint, enable people to manufacture functioning products at home, on demand, at the press of a button. In just a few hours, these mini‐factory machines can produce a simple object like a toothbrush, or make complex machine components, artisan‐style jewelry or household goods. Within a few years, personal manufacturing machines may be sophisticated enough to enable regular people to manufacture complicated objects such as integrated electronic devices.

    A number of converging forces are bringing industrial‐scale design and manufacturing tools to a tipping point where they will become cheap, reliable, easy, and versatile enough for personal use. The rapid adoption of personal manufacturing technologies is accelerated by low cost machinery, active online user communities, easier‐to‐use computer aided design (CAD) software, a growing number of online electronic design blueprints, and more easily available raw materials.

    Personal manufacturing technologies will profoundly impact how we design, make, transport, and consume physical products. As manufacturing technologies follow the path from factory to home use, like personal computers, “personalized” manufacturing tools will enable consumers, schools and businesses to work and play in new ways. Emerging manufacturing technologies will usher in an industrial “evolution” that combines the best of mass and artisan production models, and has the potential to partially reverse the trend to outsourcing. Personal manufacturing technologies will unleash “long tail” global markets for custom goods, whose sales volumes of will be profitable enough to enable specialists, niche manufacturing, and design companies to make a good living. Underserved communities will be able to design and manufacture their own medical devices, toys, machine parts and other tools locally, using local materials. At school, personal‐scale manufacturing tools will empower a new generation of innovators, and spark student interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

    ---snip---

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    ...asking for a CNC machine to make god knows what. ...Anyone have any input as to what this might be for?
    Heh, that's the point; it’s exactly for making god knows what.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    bourbon, great article, much thanks for posting. The impact of this technology and associated open system processes on legacy industries is already having a significant impact, and probably will fall in the category of one the technologies that enabled creative destruction to the existing order over time.

    From a defense perspective we of course need to view it from at least two perspectives. First how can we leverage this technology, and second how can our foes leverage it and what does that mean to us?
    Interesting times we live in. I will have to put down some the broader thoughts I’ve developed in reading about these tech breakthroughs, into the Futurists & Theorists folder or elsewhere in the Participants & Stakeholders section.

    With regard to the second perspective, for the short-term future the application of these new technologies in the manufacture of weapons and explosive devices by insurgent and/or terrorist groups should be looked into. Hopefully it is something an organization like JIEDDO already has an eye on.

    I have a general understanding that there is a range of performance in explosively formed penetrators, with regard to the level of precision used in their manufacture; however I do not know the true extent or implications. For the purpose of generating an example of the types of questions to be explored by experts, let’s say that these differences are significant: what then are the implications of when the high level of precision necessary for manufacture of a top-of-the-range EFP becomes exponentially cheaper and easier to produce?

    I can’t claim any technical background or expertise; but I have an intuition that some people who do, should look into such issues.

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    Could 3D Printing Change the World? Technologies, Potential, and Implications of Additive Manufacturing. Atlantic Council - Strategic Foresight Initiative, October 2011. (PDF)
    A new technology is emerging that could change the world. 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing (AM) is a revolutionary technology that could profoundly alter the geopolitical, economic, social, demographic, environmental, and security landscape of the international system. AM builds products layer-by-layer—additively—rather than subtracting material from a larger piece of material—that is, “subtractive” manufacturing. This seemingly small distinction—adding rather than subtracting—means everything. This potential revolution in manufacturing may take a decade or more to mature and become ubiquitous, but it could profoundly change our world in the next ten to twenty years.

    Could 3D Printing Change the World? Technologies, Potential, and Implications of Additive Manufacturing explores the technology of AM and its broader implications, which include:

    - Assembly lines and supply chains could be reduced or eliminated for many products. AM can produce the final product—or large pieces of a final product— in one process.

    - Designs, not products, would move around the world as digital files are printed anywhere with any printer to meet design parameters. A “STL” design file can be sent via the Internet and printed in 3D.

    - Products could be printed on demand without the need for inventories.

    - A given manufacturing facility would be capable of printing a huge range of products without retooling—and each printing could be customized without additional cost.

    - Production and distribution of material products could become de-globalized as production is brought closer to the consumer.

    - Manufacturing could be pulled away from “manufacturing platforms” like China back to the countries where the products are consumed, reducing global economic imbalances as export countries’ surpluses are reduced and importing countries’ reliance on imports shrink.

    - The carbon footprint of manufacturing and transport as well as overall energy use in manufacturing could be reduced substantially and thus global “resource productivity” greatly enhanced and carbon emissions reduced.

    - Reduced need for labor in manufacturing could be politically destabilizing in some economies while others, especially aging societies, might benefit from the ability to produce more goods with fewer people while reducing reliance on imports.

    - The United States, the current leader in AM technology, could experience a renaissance in innovation, design, IP exports, and manufacturing, enhancing its relative economic strength and geopolitical influence.

    Will 3D Printing indeed change the world in these and other profound ways? Of course, it remains to be seen. The military already views AM as a potential technology for specific tasks which could have huge efficiency and cost-saving benefits, such as the production of spare parts to reduce inventories carried by ships. But the foreign policy and defense and intelligence communities must look more systematically at how new technologies such as AM could transform the world in fundamental ways that affect the global economy, societies, and the overall strategic and security environment. The authors of this Strategic Foresight Report hope to advance the dialogue and understanding between the science and technology communities and the foreign policy, intelligence and defense communities and provide foresight into the policy implications of the accelerating rate with which new technologies are changing our world.
    “[S]omething in his tone now reminded her of his explanations of asymmetric warfare, a topic in which he had a keen and abiding interest. She remembered him telling her how terrorism was almost exclusively about branding, but only slightly less so about the psychology of lotteries…” - Zero History, William Gibson

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    From the report above:
    AM could have significant implications in security and terrorism:

    • Weapons manufacturing could become easier –guns, bullets, bombs, etc., could become cheaper and more easily accessible
    • Weapons could be much more easily disguised (e.g., improvised explosive devices-IEDs-that look identical to non-weapons)
    • Terrorists could lose their dependency upon developed countries for their supplies
    • Implications will exist for counterfeiting/anticounterfeiting
    “[S]omething in his tone now reminded her of his explanations of asymmetric warfare, a topic in which he had a keen and abiding interest. She remembered him telling her how terrorism was almost exclusively about branding, but only slightly less so about the psychology of lotteries…” - Zero History, William Gibson

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    Default Wikiweapon

    The group Defense Distributed has successfully created a lower receiver for an AR-15 that withstood the firing of over 600 rounds, that was printed using stereolithography. The previous model they demonstrated last year failed after 6 rounds.

    Note that this lower currently takes 9-12 hours to print and costs $150 to make. Also note that 3D printing technology roughly follows a Moore's Law – style of trend; so think about drop in price and rise in quality of regular 2D computer printers over the last 20 or 30 years. We are going to see something similar with 3D printing / additive manufacturing.

    Background article on Defense Distributed:
    Shots Heard ‘Round the World: The 3D-Printed Gun Revolution Begins, by Kyle Chayka. AnimalNewYork.com, November 12, 2012.
    “[S]omething in his tone now reminded her of his explanations of asymmetric warfare, a topic in which he had a keen and abiding interest. She remembered him telling her how terrorism was almost exclusively about branding, but only slightly less so about the psychology of lotteries…” - Zero History, William Gibson

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    Oh, and they are already getting into "4D Printing" these days: Brilliant Robot Scraps Can Form Selves Into Anything - Wired.com
    “[S]omething in his tone now reminded her of his explanations of asymmetric warfare, a topic in which he had a keen and abiding interest. She remembered him telling her how terrorism was almost exclusively about branding, but only slightly less so about the psychology of lotteries…” - Zero History, William Gibson

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