For the past few years, the United States Marine Corps have been integrating 3D printing to assist in its military operations. From the 1st Marine Logistic Group’s incorporation of additive manufacturing to create aircrafts, radio brackets, and gas caps, to the development of a biodegradable 3D printed aerial drone delivery system, it is apparent that the force is investing heavily in the technology.
As a matter of fact, U.S. Marines have recently learned to design and create lightweight, accessible equipment for expeditionary environments using the LulzBot TAZ 6 3D printer. The training is part of the Next Generation Logistics (NexLog) initiative and veteran-owned technology and engineering consulting firm, Building Momentum.
Established in 2015, NexLog was launched to encourage the development of emerging technologies for logistic capabilities within the Marine Corps. Lt.Col. Howard Marotto, Deputy Director of NexLog, recognized 3D printing as a method that would allow Marines to produce equipment no longer available through conventional manufacturers.
“We have to become our own manufacturers on certain low-demand, obsolete type items because the industrial base won't support us,” Marotto said.
The perfect case study for the Marines' Lulzbot TAZ 3D printer were lost or broken transmission caps and fragile handles from military HUMVEEs (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle). Should these printed parts fail to function properly, marines cannot transport themselves quickly to their desired locations.
The team was able to successfully 3D print a more durable HUMVEE handle and transmission cap in under an hour. Usually, the Marines would have had to wait for the part to be delivered or replaced in an expensive refit.
The U.S Marines have also been using the Lulzbot TAZ 6 in expeditionary missions, even in cold conditions.
The team noticed that clips used to fasten their snowshoes broke easily due to the harsh weather conditions. With 3D printing, they were able to design and produce clips that attach to their snowshoes to make sure they stay in place during a mission.
The Marines have recognized these 3D printed parts as “mission-critical assets” due to its durability, cost-effective production, and accessibility.
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Product mentioned: Lulzbot TAZ 6 (starting from $2,499) available here