The US Army is building systems that can quickly and cheaply create parts and equipment in combat zones.
The US Special Operations Command is building a series of mobile workshops that can repair their equipment and even create new objects from scratch. The Mobile Technology Complex (MTC) is based on an old army concept of Mobile Parts Hospital that was started to speed up the manufacturing and procurement of replacement parts in combat zones. The entire system fits in a standard shipping container.
Strategy Page has more on Mobile Parts Hospital:
The MPH was developed when the army realized that the easiest way to get the many rarely requested, but vital, replacement parts to the troops, was to manufacture the parts in the combat zone. In short order, this led to the construction of a portable parts fabrication system, called MPH, that fit into a standard 8x8x20 foot shipping container. The original version used two containers, but smaller equipment and more powerful computers eventually made it possible to use one container.
The key to making this work was the availability of computer controlled machine tools, which can take a block of the proper metal, and machine it into the desired part. The big breakthrough was the development of CAD (Computer Assisted Design) software for PCs in the 1980s, which made the process of designing, and then fabricating, a part much faster. The MPH has a high speed satellite data link, which enables it to obtain the CAD file for a part. Often, the MPH staff figure out a way to improve a part, based on the broken parts they see, and what the troops tell them.
[via Global Guerrillas]