A Marine machinist demonstrating a 3D printer at Camp Lejeune. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Aug. 16 (UPI) -- The Marine Corps is testing a mobile 3D printing lab for fabrication of spare parts in the field.
Marine Corp Systems Command and the 2nd Maintenance Battalion at Camp Lejeune are overseeing the field evaluation of a prototype X-FAB, or expeditionary fabrication, for future development.
The X-FAB is a collapsible 20x20-feet shelter that houses four 3D printers, design software computer systems and a scanner. It would allow for the rapid fabrication of parts at the battalion level using additive manufacturing.
It weighs over 5 tons, requires several hours to set up with a team of four and can be transported by flatbed truck. It runs on either generator or landline power.
"We don't know where the technology will take us, but this is a great opportunity to find out what Marines think about it and explore the viability of additive manufacturing for the C7912 Shop Equipment, Machine Shop," program manager Ed Howell said in a press release.
The X-FAB would act as an addition to the C7912 mobile machine shop, which is equipped with traditional lathes, milling machines and other equipment for fabrication and repairs.
2nd Maintenance Battalion Master Sgt. Carlos Lemus says one potential advantage of the X-FAB would be to reduce the large number of spare parts that need to be transported and ease logistics difficulties.
"We are looking to exploit this capability, because it has the potential to cut out the time it takes to order and receive parts; instead of waiting weeks or a month for a part, our machinists can get the part out by the end of the day," Lemus said.
The field test will run through Sept. 1 with future testing to determine how to transport them to the field on vehicles and aircraft.