The US Marine Corps Expeditionary Logistics Wargame is an annual event where the crème de la crème of Marine Corps planners test out the latest technologies to enhance the Corps' logistics and supply chain response capabilities.
Battle damage requires military hardware to be decommissioned and removed from the theater where it can undergo extended and sometimes costly servicing. But the USMC is now hoping to understand how 3D printing can allow field engineers to scan, print and inspect damaged equipment on site.
Marine Corps engineers plan to explore 3D Systems' advanced 3D scanning and printing tools to rapidly replace damaged parts in the field, and as part of the CELW exercise, Marines will be tasked with repairing two key parts of a tactical multipurpose robot.
Vice Admiral Philip H Cullom, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) for Fleet Readiness and Logistics with the U.S. Navy, says advanced manufacturing will be a lynchpin for the armed forces in the field as the technology matures.
"It's my strong belief that 3D printing and advanced manufacturing are breakthrough technologies for our maintenance and logistics functions of the future," Cullom said. "We can gain new capabilities to make rapid repairs, print tools and parts where and when they are needed, carry fewer spares and, ultimately, transform our maritime maintenance and logistics supply chain."
The robot, designed to clear a hot landing zone of obstacles preventing a helicopter from landing, will be assessed and repaired using 3D Systems Geomagic Capture (a portable 3D scanner) and Geomagic Design Direct to create exact CAD models of the damaged robot's broken components. The necessary replacement parts will be immediately printed using 3D Systems' Selective Laser Sintering and Direct Metal Printing Fab-Grade printers.
Once parts are output, the quality and accuracy of the parts will be checked using Geomagic Control to accurately compare the replacement parts with data for the original parts.
"We are thrilled to work with the U.S. Department of Defense to modernize tactics across multiple domains and demonstrate to the Marine Corps the latest tools to deliver rapid response solutions in critical applications. We are pleased to be a partner in this effort to improve tactical responses and help save warfighters' lives," said Neal Orringer, Vice President of Alliances and Partnerships at 3D Systems.
In the past, 3D Systems has used direct manufacturing to create components for the Joint Strike Fighter and T-Hawk unmanned micro air-vehicle and helped create an array of rapid prototyping and medical device applications for the armed services.