The U.S. Marine Corps is evaluating the utility of an expeditionary fabrication laboratory (X-FAB) for on-demand crisis response. A self-contained fab lab, the 20 x 20 foot unit is stocked with four 3D printers, CAD software and a 3D scanner.
It can be deployed with battalion-level Marine maintenance units, servicing support ground equipment including motor transport and communications electronics.
The shelter for the equipment is designed to be collapsible, and can be powered using onshore power or a generator. When assembled on site, it takes a team of four Marines two to three hours to set up.
Lt. Col. Howie Marotto is Additive Manufacturing lead at Marine Corps Installations and Logistics. Speaking to DVIDS, Marotto says, “In a contested environment where ships cannot easily land, or airplanes cannot necessarily fly in and deliver goods, Marines need a way to support themselves—at least temporarily,”
“The deployable X-FAB would give them another outlet to supply themselves until the regular logistics or supply chain can support them.”
The facility can also be used to equip Marines with new technologies, like 3D printed drones. The project is part of a widespread initiative throughout the military to provide overnight manufacturing solutions.
A field user evaluation (FUE) of the X-FAB lab will continue through September 1 2017. The FUE has been conducted in part by Master Sgt. Carlos Lemus, officer in charge of the Additive Manufacturing and Innovation Cell with 2nd Maintenance Battalion.
Master Sgt. Lemus comments, “We are looking to exploit this capability, because it has the potential to cut out the time it takes to order and receive parts,”
“instead of waiting weeks or a month for a part, our machinists can get the part out by the end of the day.”
The plan is to be able to integrate the system in a variety of operations, and use it in collaboration with the Marine Corps’ Shop Equipment, Machine Shop (SEMS) that has milling capabilities.
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Featured image: Gunnery Sgt. Doug McCue examines a 3D printer inside the Marines’ expeditionary fabrication lab X-FAB. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kailtin Kelly