Date of Graduation

Fall 2014


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

John Rose


This thesis explores the impact of additive manufacturing on the defense industry. Additive manufacturing (AM), more commonly known as three-dimensional (3D) printing, is a prospective disruptive technology that could potentially revolutionize the U.S. defense industry and military strategy. The technology allows for start-to-finish manufacturing of complex three-dimensional objects via computer modeling, and is not restrained by many traditional production requirements. While initially a popular movement among hobbyists and enthusiasts, AM has been recently recognized for its potential in both industrial productions and warfare capabilities. The thesis gives background on the AM process and provides an overview of the potential uses of the futuristic technology in the defense and security industry. The thesis conducts futures analysis and scenario planning in order to visualize obstacles ahead and the impact the technology may have on U.S. operational constructs. The thesis concludes with four scenarios which will cover multiple potential applications of AM, but will focus on printed firearms and WMD proliferation. Domestic and foreign policies are evaluated for effectiveness as a tool to prevent abuse of the technology. The hypothesis that the current domestic and foreign policies are incapable of effectively preventing the abuse of the technology was proven in the case of manufacturing firearms.


additive manufacturing, defense industry, futures analysis, disruptive technology, firearms, weapons of mass destruction

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


© Kathryn M. R. Buchinger

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