The U.S. Marine Corps continues to innovate when it comes to using 3D printers in defense applications. We’ve written recently about the Marines testing the printers and making plans for 3D printed drones.
Now we’ve learned that they’ve become the first service to deploy 3D printers in a combat zone with conventional forces.
“There have been printers deployed in the past in the special forces community, but they were always deployed with engineers. We’ve actually deployed these printers with our Marines, and given them the training [to use them] while deployed,” said Marine Lt. Col. Howard Marotto, the service’s lead for 3D printing development and implementation, in an interview with Military.com.
The desktop printers are being used by the Marine crisis response task force assigned to the Middle East. Troops can reproduce repair parts on the fly rather than wait for them to be shipped from a distant logistics hub.
One example of how the 3D printers can be used is to build plastic components for radios, to make them operable again, said Lt. Gen. Michael Dana, deputy commandant for installations and logistics. The 3D printers can produce parts in hours as opposed to waiting weeks or longer to order and receive a part.
Individual unit commands also have a broad authorization to use 3D printers to create repair parts in the field. There are at least 40 3D printers in use by the Marines right now, and that number is expected to grow to 60 or 70 before the end of the year.
“We believe that additive manufacturing, 3D printing, has much promise to flatten the supply chain,” Dana said. “Because the way our supply chain is currently configured is factory to foxhole. But the factory is all the way back, most times, in the United States.”
Source: Defense Tech