Jul 16, 2018 | By Thomas

Following requests for an investigation from Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the U.S. Air Force revealed last week that it is 3D printing toilet seat covers for its C-5 Galaxy, a Vietnam-era military cargo plane that is still in service instead of spending $10,000 to replace them. 3D printing now allows them to produce the seat cover for just $300.

A latrine cover for a C-5 Galaxy cargo plane used by the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

“We are not now, nor will we in the future buy that aircraft part at that price, because we can now do so more cheaply using 3D printing,” a spokesman told Washionpost. “Using this new process allows us to make parts that are no longer in production and is driving major cost savings.”

The toilet seat covers on the C-5 Galaxy is no longer in production so the government was forced to purchase customized ones. During an interview that Will Roper, the assistant Air Force secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, did with Defense One in May, a Department of Defense contractor told the Air Force that each new toilet seat cover for the cargo plane would cost $10,000.

“You’ll think, there’s no way it costs that,” Roper said. "No, it doesn’t, but you’re asking a company to produce it and they’re producing something else. And for them to produce this part for us, they have to quit producing what they’re making now."

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, sent a letter to Department of Defense last month, asking the department’s inspector general to investigate.

"If Dr. Roper's information is accurate, I would be very discouraged, indeed. It would tell me that we have not made much progress in the war on waste. In fact, it would tell me that we may be losing ground," Grassley said in his letter to the Defense Department.

"Moreover, the DoD should view this revelation with alarm, because it could be used to cut the defense budget -- as it was in the 1980's. It seems to me that there is no way to justify a $10,000 price tag for a toilet seat lid. It's just not credible. It needs scrutiny," the senator said.

In his interview with Defense One, Roper suggested a possible solution would be for the Air Force to "just print that latrine cover and there’s just some kind of profit margin or royalty that they (the contractors) get."

It is reported the Air Force will now rely on 3D printing that will lower the price tag of a toilet seat cover to $300, and they want to use 3D printing to drive long-standing inefficiencies out of the Pentagon’s vast supply chain. “I want to get where we can supply parts that we can’t get elsewhere,” Roper said. “Right now we’re reacting to parts for planes that were built decades ago.”



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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dave b wrote at 7/30/2018 10:19:53 PM:

"...but you’re asking a company to produce it and they’re producing something else. And for them to produce this part for us, they have to quit producing what they’re making now." Wow every salesman in the world now wants to knock on that guys door. Thats not how ordering works for any entity that doesn't go broke. Its a metal cover with no obvious secret parts. Theres a near infinite number of companies and even individuals that could produce this in any material.

steve wrote at 7/18/2018 6:27:46 AM:

Good luck finding someone to print that for $300! I'd guess that if you stuck it into 3dhubs, it would be 3-5x that.

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