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US Marine Corps bring 3D printing to the front lines

Published on July 13, 2017 by Alexandrea P.
US marines 3D printing

3D printing has come to combat zones and the United States Marine Corps is welcoming it with open arms into their bases. The branch of the United States military has been one of the leading voices behind the incorporation of 3D printing in the military, recognizing early on its benefits and the many possibilities it can offer to make fighting smarter and bring the advantages they need while risking their lives out on the field.

This latest endeavor by the Marines comes on the curtails of other announcements made by players in the defense industry this year, such as defense giant Lockheed Martin’s announcement of their ICBM design or APWorks and Dassault Systèmes partnership announcement last month to bring additive manufacturing further into the defense and aerospace industry – Helping to illustrate just how big a role additive manufacturing will play in the future.

US marines 3D printing

Gen. Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps (right), observes a 3D printer in the Central Command area of operations photo// Marine Corps – Cpl. Samantha K. Braun

By bringing 3D printers to the front lines for soldiers, they have gained a great benefit. As most of the areas the soldiers are in are highly active, these machines are enabling soldiers to repair their parts, gear and creating an overall faster supply chain so that they can continue their fight without having to wait for replacements to arrive. Thanks to the addition of these machines, they are also able to highlight the benefits of this technology both in the military and outside.

“There are radios out there that have plastic components. We’ve been able to print plastic components for those radios, to make them operable when they were inoperable,” explained Dana, Lt. Gen. Michael Dana, Deputy Commandant for Installations and Logistics in a recent interview.“This way it has much promise to provide on-demand parts literally within hours, worst case days, whereas if you’re dealing with a traditional, back in the States to point of need, you’re talking multiple days, weeks and sometimes even longer. So that’s the attraction of this capability””

US marines 3D printing

Lance Cpl. Vincent A. Smyth, Marine Air-Ground Task Force planning specialist calibrates a 3D printer during the 3-D Printing Training Course at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina Photo // marines.mil

During an interview in June with Marine Lt. Col. Howard Marotto, the service’s lead for additive manufacturing and 3D printing development and implementation, he explained that the Marines are the first service to actually send 3D printers into combat zones with conventional forces. Previously, the 3D printers were sent with engineers. Today, thanks to training provided to the Marines, they are now able to be deployed on their own with the 3D printers.

While the Marine’s haven’t given specifics on where the printers are located, they have confirmed that they are currently in combat zones that belong to the Marine Corps Crisis Response Task Force in the Middle East, with others said to be in the same region, but behind front lines.

What do you think of the Marines using 3D printing? What do you think this could mean for the future of additive manufacturing? Let us know in a comment below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly Newsletter, with all the latest news in 3D printing delivered straight to your inbox!

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