Marine Wing Support Squadron investigates power of 3D printing

The 3D printed door handle installed inside a Humvee. Photo by Sgt. Brytani Wheeler

The United States Marine Corps is calling for 3D printer training to help its troops respond to military crises.

After introducing an FFF 3D printer to Marine Wing Support Squadron 372 (MWSS-372), Operations Officer Captain Marc Blair has outlined a vision for 21st century innovation in the marines, that will help the land squadron support unit service and maintain vehicles for 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing – the main marine aviation unit of the U.S. west coast.

Following implementation by the 7th Marine Regiment, MWSS-372 has identified 3D printing’s potential to redesign and replace insufficient plastic parts. In one of the first use cases, MWSS engineers designed a new door handle for a Humvee (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle) truck. In development of the handle, the team noted the utility of producing numerous iterations of a design, “We could come up with an idea for something,” explains Chief Warrant Officer Benny Lane, “and we can run through five, six or seven renditions of it in a few days to find the right way to make the product effectively.”

3D printers have been installed at military response units all across the U.S. In another project, the Marine Corps are investigating the viability of a mobile Fab Lab (X-FAB “expeditionary fabrication laboratory”). The U.S. Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) based in Jacksonville, Florida, is also credited with 3D printing the force’s first ever aircraft replacement component.

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