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Marine Corps testing mobile 3D printing lab

By Stephen Carlson
Marine Corps testing mobile 3D printing lab
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.

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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.

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"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.

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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.

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"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.

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