May 1, 2018 | By David

We’ve reported before on the increasing implementation of 3D printed equipment in military operations, where the technology can help to rapidly produce spare parts and emergency supplies, and the U.S. Marine Corps is the latest outfit to take advantage of what 3D printing has to offer. A recent mountain-based training mission was the occasion for an innovative use of the technology, as the Marines’ dedicated AM team 3D printed some customized parts for snowshoes, to improve stability in the tough snowy conditions.

The U.S. Marine Corps is preparing itself for potential operations in colder climates after years of fighting in the arid deserts and sun-bleached settlements of the Middle East. Threats are increasingly likely in northern Europe and northeast Asia, and the Marines want to be ready if and when they need to be met. On earlier training missions back in 2016 and 207, marines in northern Norway in reported a number of problems with their gear. Zippers got stuck, seams ripped, backpack frames snapped, and boots were repeatedly pulled loose from skis or even tore on the metal bindings.

Upgrades to equipment were evidently necessary, and further measures needed to be put in place to enable the Marines to get what they needed as quickly as possible. More recent missions were able to tackle the issues with equipment as soon as they arose, making use of 3D printing to replace important parts of snowshoes. The fast turnaround of a custom solution to a common problem greatly improved troops’ performance, and instilled plenty of confidence in the Marines for their future operations and future applications of 3D printing technology.

The 3D printed parts were put into action at the Marines’ Mountain Warfare Training Center, located in northern California. The MWTC is one of the main domestic facilities tasked with training Marines in mountain and cold weather operations. During the winter season, snow accumulation can reach six to eight feet (1.8–2.4m) with temperatures as cold as 20 degrees below zero.

"If a Marine is attacking a position in the snow while in combat, and the clip on their boot breaks, it makes it difficult for the Marine to run forward with a rifle uphill to complete the mission," said Capt. Matthew Friedell, AM project officer in the Marine Corps Systems Command's Systems Engineering and Acquisition Logistics. "If he or she has a 3D printed clip in their pocket, they can quickly replace it and continue charging ahead."

The Additive Manufacturing team at the Marine Corps Systems Command worked to develop the new 3D printed clip replacement for snowshoes. It took just three days to put together, from the initial design phase to final printing and delivery.

(source: U.S. Marine Corps)

"The capability that a 3D printer brings to us on scene saves the Marine Corps time and money by providing same-day replacements if needed," said Capt. Jonathan Swafford, AM officer at MWTC. "It makes us faster than our peer adversaries because we can design whatever we need right when we need it, instead of ordering a replacement part and waiting for it to ship."



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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