3D printers from China stamp FPV drones in Russia

Russian firms received a batch of 3D printers from China for several hundred dollars each. Civilian enterprises’ manufacturing facilities deploy the printers to produce FPV drones for the Russian Armed Forces, in addition to their other goods.

The technology has been modified so that it is not affected by sanctions. Information about the development of Russian FPV drones was provided by the Financial Times.

Putin’s troops in Ukraine use FPV drones to strike Ukrainian military positions, inflicting significant damage.

Russia’s methods of evading sanctions to produce drones

In 2023, the Russian Federation bought a certain amount of items from China; more than 22 thousand trade invoices demonstrate the scope of commerce. Among these bills, more than 600 names have the letter combination 3D.

The conclusion was that they were 3D printers, which the Chinese companies sold to the Russians for several hundred dollars. At the same time, because the device is in the form of spare components, tracing the supply chain to enforce sanctions is extremely difficult.

In February 2023, the Russian Ministry of Trade expressed that the Russian industry’s output of military items would treble within a year. If the growth rate in 2024 remains consistent, the factories will be capable of producing 1,000 drones each month, or 12,000 drones per year.

Russian bakery that produces drones

These 3D printers are currently freely generating components for various types of drones in workplaces, and ordinary Russians are working on the production.

The FT reported on the drone creation at the Tambov Bread Factory.

The bakery makes small Bekas drones for around $270 (ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 per unit). The bakery produces approximately 250 of these devices per month (or 3,000 per year).

On December 1, 2023, an investigation by the Russian non-governmental media outlet Agenstvo Novosti appeared. Half of the regions in Russia are engaged in drone manufacturing, according to the investigators’ report. Soon, the production capacity will be about 1 million UAVs.

Civil industries are filling Russian military needs

In Russia, industries not only produce drones but also other equipment. In Naberezhnye Chelny, a hockey stick workshop produces bulletproof vests.

In Chelyabinsk, a tent factory produces tents and sleeping bags for the Russian Armed Forces.

In Voronezh, an agricultural machinery plant manufactures demining equipment, binoculars, and drone defense equipment, according to journalists.

According to the FT, there are 500 similar firms in Russia. At the same time, the Western world failed to curb component supply, according to the journalists.

Chinese 3D printers exposed loopholes in Western sanctions

The deceit of Chinese 3D printers churning out FPV drones for Russia exposes a worrying chink in the armor of international sanctions designed to isolate Putin’s regime.

This highlights the critical need for robust monitoring and enforcement mechanisms to prevent China from becoming a backdoor for sanctioned goods.

Russia’s ability to bypass sanctions using easily accessible 3D-printed drone technology undermines the intended economic pressure to curb its aggression and directly assist Russian invading troops in killing Ukrainians, and it threatens security and stability in Europe.

The international community must act swiftly to close this loophole, whether through stricter export controls on 3D printing technology or enhanced intelligence sharing to track sanctioned goods across borders.

Ignoring this emerging trend would be tantamount to handing Putin a lifeline, prolonging Russia’s war in Ukraine, and claiming more Ukrainian lives.

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