There are many different ways the US Armed Forces are leveraging 3d printing for their benefit. From building drones to repairing parts for aircraft, the ability to manufacture something in hours can serve as a true advantage for the men and women defending America.
Now the Marine Corps have become the first to place their 3d printers inside active combat zones, as they look to liberate territory from the terror group ISIS.
“We were the first service to actually deploy 3D printers to a combat zone with actual conventional forces,” Marine Lt. Col. Howard Marotto, the service’s lead for additive manufacturing and 3D printing development and implementation, told Military.com last month.
“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.”
If a wrench needs to be built but there are none available, the marines can print one. If components for their radios are broken or missing, they can be printed. And if medical equipment needs to be made or customized, it can be made on-demand with their 3d printers.
"Marines have always had great ideas; they have always been innovative. They haven’t always had the capability to be able to manufacture that or to make it right there, at least a prototype,” Marotto said. “And now 3D printing is opening up those avenues for Marines to capitalize on their innovative ideas.”
The key driver of value to the Marines here is time saved. For the parts they are 3d printing in their combat zone, they now wait just hours instead of requesting a resupply the traditional way, which in many cases involves having those parts sent over from the US.
“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.”