Even during times of peace, the equipment used by armed forces begins to suffer from wear and tear. A machine that ceases to work in the field during peace can usually be sidelined until a replacement part is found and shipped. During war, the margin for error and the luxury of time are both diminished. Having a system in place that can repair machines in the field has the potential to save lives.
3D Systems (3DS) is working with the United States Marine Corps (USMC) to develop quick response teams that leverage additive manufacturing (AM) to affect repairs in the field, even under the most difficult of circumstances. As part of the training, engineers will be using 3DS’ AM and scanning technology during the USMC Expeditionary Logistics Wargame VIII (ExLog).
For this particular training exercise, engineers will be working to repair a robot responsible for clearing hot landing zones of potential obstacles before a helicopter attempts to set down. Along with a portable scanner, the engineers will use a variety of Geomagic capture and design tools to generate data of the parts that need to be replaced.
Once the digital designs have been built, AM systems will begin to build replacement parts using 3DS’ selective laser sintering and direct metal printing. The final products will be spot checked for quality using a different Geomagic tool before being used to repair the faulty robot.
“We are thrilled to work with the U.S. Department of Defense to modernize tactics across multiple domains (land, air, sea, cyber, and space) and demonstrate to the Marine Corps the latest tools to deliver rapid response solutions in critical applications,” said Neal Orringer, VP of alliances and partnerships at 3DS. “We are pleased to be a partner in this effort to improve tactical responses and help save warfighters’ lives.”
AM has already caught the eye of other branches of the US military, including efforts to build missiles using the technology, and to reduce the supply chain for the Navy. The Army has also added 3D printers to its forward repair posts, as part of the Expeditionary Lab – Mobile.
Below you’ll find a video from 3DS about their partnership with the USMC.