Sgt. Adrian Willis with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepares to 3D print a 3D model aboard the USS Wasp (via U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Bernadette Wildes).

Members of Combat Logistic Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit have turned to 3D printing for the production of replacement parts and aircraft components.

“While afloat, our mottos is ‘Fix it forward,’” Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Rodriguez, Combat Logistics Battalion 31’s (CLB-31) maintenance officer, said in a statement. “3D printing is a great tool to make that happen. CLB-31 can now bring that capability to bear exactly where it’s needed most—on forward-deployed MEU.”

The 31st Expeditionary Unit is on call at all times, and waiting for replacement parts to be manufactured and shipped to them can slow them dramatically. With 3D printing, however, this can be completely avoided. Already this month, the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 successfully completed an F-35B Lightning II which featured a 3D printed bumper that they produced on site. Traditional processes, regardless of a part’s size, would have often times required that they produce an entire new door assembly, something the Depart of Defense describes as “time-consuming and expensive.”

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Rodriguez with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, holds a 3D-printed plastic bumper for an F-35B Lightning II landing gear door aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1) (via U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Stormy Mendez)

In addition to this bumper, CLB-31 has 3D printed a camera lens cap which attached to a camera on of their unmanned ground vehicles. According to the Depart of Defense, 3D printing is the ideal tool for the United States armed forces whose focus on self-sufficiency is renowned.

“Finding innovative solutions to complex problems really does harken back to our core principles as Marines,” Marine Corps Sgt. Adrian Willis said. “I’m proud to be a part of a new program that could be a game-changer for the Marine Corps.”

By using 3D printing to produce these parts, the Marines are able to store their 3D templates on the Marine Corps 3D printing database, allowing Marines from anywhere in the world o access and print them.

“I think 3D printing is definitely the future,” Willis, a computer and telephone technician, said. “It’s absolutely the direction the Marine Corps needs to be going.”

How else is 3D printing being utilized by our military branches?

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