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Marines Assess Battlefield Additive Manufacturing

Posted on August 23rd, 2017 by in New Materials & Applications

Marine Corps X-Fab

By Marine Corps Systems Command [Content on YouTube], via YouTube

Supply chains can make or break a company, but supply lines can win or lose a war and have untold costs in human lives. The U.S. Marines are testing advanced in situ manufacturing technology to manufacture spare parts in theater, getting them back to the fight faster.

A highly efficient supply chain is the lifeblood of any manufacturer. Each step being on time, every time with supplies arriving just in time is pivotal to maximum efficiency and profitability. When you are the United States Marines – the tip of the spear in combat – your supply chain takes on life or death consequences. Any wait time for repair parts is just not acceptable.

The Marine Corps is exploring the use of additive manufacturing technology to help them quickly construct and repair equipment on location near the battlefield. Their prototype X-Fab (Expeditionary Fabrication) facility is a self-contained, transportable additive manufacturing unit that can be deployed on location. Marine maintenance units would then have the capability to create components in real time, solving complex and location dependent problems. For example, if the manufacturer supplied stand on a grenade launcher proved unstable due to rocky terrain, a new foot could be created after 3D laser scanning indigenous rocks. Additionally, repair parts or failed components could be copied on location eliminating the need to inventory replacements or wait for them to arrive through standard supply lines.

Housed within a 20×20 foot shelter, the Marine X-Fab includes advanced technology to create and repair parts including 3D scanners and printers as well as computer aided design software to engineer bespoke components. Have a look at the following YouTube video to learn more and see the X-Fab in action:

While many industries may claim “life or death” consequences on supply chain delays, you’d be hard pressed to find any more critical than those of military serviceman and service women. Technological innovations such as X-Fab gives America’s finest an edge to come home safely. Semper fi!

How would you additive manufacturing could improve battlefield readiness? Tell us about your quest for unconventional knowledge and what it could mean for the future of your products or companies. Share your thoughts in the comments section below and don’t forget to follow us on your favorite social media channel.

All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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