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US Marines full on 3D Printing

by • May 2, 2016 • No Comments

What if, instead of waiting 60 days for new parts or equipment, you may have them on the market in only 1 day? This is the new reality for the West Coast Marines, who have started via 3D printing to replace broken gear.

3D printing company, Inventor Cloud, Applied Systems and Technology Transfer, have loaned the equipment to the California based unit at Camp Pendleton. Members of 1st Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group who have been printing aircraft parts, gas caps, tools, radio brackets and additional.

Lt. Col. Gregory Pace, commander of the battalion, has said that the implementation of 3D printing “has the future to be revolutionary” on their demand for parts. Instead of lengthy wait times or having to source parts of other decommissioned machinery, Marines can rapidly 3D print a prototype that can be matched to the needed repair, tested against fit, form and function, and and so fabricated with metal.

The current focus is tiny plastic pieces common to communications gear, a few parts of that break regularly. Instead of butchering other radios, the operators have found 3D printing to be an great solution.

The cost reduction is in addition worthwhile. Fleet Readiness Center Southwest, an aviation repair shop based at Naval Station North Island, California, is home to three state-of-the-art 3-D printing equipment. Old F/A-18A-D Hornet jets with bulkhead cracks can cost as much as $1 million and take six months to repair there, but with aluminium and 3D printing, the cost can be reduced to as little as $25,000.

Pace says the learning curve is no problem for the Marines in the maintenance battalion, with them learning how to use the scanning software and printing process in three days. They were printing parts inside four hours once their process was online.

In addition to the Marine Corp being at the forefront of utilising this advancement in the military, the US Navy has in addition leapt on board. They have utilized 3D printing to make obsolete and expensive parts for missiles, lighter and less costly aircraft pieces, and helicopter components that cut down on labour hours.

Whilst this won’t replace the military’s existing donate chains, it is an great alternative and addition to methods may already in use.

“It is an amazing time and we are thrilled to be a part of it,” Pace said. “It is amazing to appear at things with a fresh point of view and not the entered by existing orders and policies suggest you should do. You can’t have advancement if you are beholden to processs that were made years ago.”

Whilst the military is yet in the testing phase of 3D printing, they have may already found limitless possibilities for the application of this advancement.

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