The US Navy (USN) and Marine Corps (USMC) have demonstrated a mobile, containerised, 3D printing facility capable of manufacturing replacement parts at forward deployed positions.
The Expeditionary Manufacturing Mobile Test Bed (EXMAN) is an effort to evaluate and integrate additive manufacturing across the navy, Dr Kristin Holzworth, director of the Joint Advanced Manufacturing Region (JAMR) at the Space and Naval Warfare System Command (SSC) Pacific, told Jane’s .
The EXMAN is deployed in a 20 ft container that can be transported by truck, aircraft, or ship. Inside the container is a complete 3D printing suite that includes ruggedised laptops with computer aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) software, 3D scanners, a 3D printer that prints in Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) plastic, and a mill and lathe that enables marines to fabricate end use components using advanced subtractive techniques, Holzworth said.
The goal is to cut the USMC’s need to deploy with a large quantity of spares, particularly to locations that are only accessible over land, Warrant Officer Daniel Bowers, 1st Maintenance Battalion, told Jane’s .
“What you are doing when you bring all those parts with you, you are trying to forecast a demand that might have been based on historical information that may or may not be accurate,” Warrant Officer Bower said.
Being able to 3D manufacture some of those items would have a significant impact on logistics, he added.
Depending on complexity, it can take anywhere from one to a few hours to manufacture a component.
In December 2016 SSC Pacific deployed EXMAN during Exercise ‘Steel Knight’, an annual USMC live fire event held across the western United States and California coast.
During its deployment EXMAN addressed 32 urgent emergent use cases that arose during eight days of the exercise, Holzworth said.
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