Making the Beacon (a lamp made from a Vietnam-War-era cluster bomblet) has always been something of a challenge. Cluster bomblets have a lot of moving parts, and the only pieces that make it to the final design unmodified are the tiny springs that hold the legs in place. To further complicate the process the parts are all made of vastly different materials, running from fragile black plastic to a mystery metal that dulls drill bits faster than crayons in a kindergarten. It's almost as if they were initially engineered with no consideration at all for the needs of a furniture designer 40 years in the future.
The obvious solution was to make copies of the original parts, modified to my own specifications. Unfortunately, "exact" copies were out of the question. The original manufacturing process was cost-effective for a multimillion-unit military requisition, but at smaller-scale production these stamped aluminum pieces would have the per-unit cost of a minor celebrity wedding.
So instead of copying the original, I decided to improve on it. The overall design would remain the same, but I could replace the most fragile, tricky parts with a purpose-built component. In this case, the target was the three-piece hub attaching the stabilizer fins to the bombshell. Without the requirements of large-scale production, I was free to combine these into a single 3-D printed unit. I reproduced the main component in CAD, made small additions and modifications to emulate the functionality of the multi-part design, and had enough room left over to brand it with the company name in cutout block letters.
Any ambivalence I had about replacing the bombs original parts disappeared when the prototype hub came back from the 3-D printer. The cheap-looking anodized aluminum, sandwiched between brittle plastic and corroded sheet metal, is replaced by a single piece made from a beautifully textured stainless and bronze composite. The new part is technically more complicated, but it looks simpler and more streamlined, a better fit with the rest of the design. It's much more durable than the military-spec components as well. Apart from ignoring the needs of future furniture designers, the engineers never figured these things would get used more than once.