MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- The Corps consistently seeks ways to enhance the warfighter’s skills.
For years, the Corps has taught innovative manufacturing techniques to Marines, equipping them with the competence to quickly fix equipment malfunctions on the battlefield. Next Generation Logistics, an innovation branch of the Deputy Commandant Installation and Logistics, ran the training for several years.
In the first quarter of 2019, this responsibility transitioned to Marine Corps Systems Command. The changeover led to the creation of MCSC’s Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell.
“The innovation training allows Marines to use tools, such as 3D printing, to fix their own problems,” said Capt. Matthew Audette, AMOC project officer at MCSC. “We are democratizing the ability to design solutions.”
The training primarily occurs within a Marine Maker lab in Alexandria, Virginia. The facility, recently featured on CBS News, offers tutorials in advanced manufacturing, an umbrella term encompassing additive manufacturing, welding, laser-cutting, drone-building and other services.
“We tackle a number of facets of advanced manufacturing—not just additive manufacturing,” said Audette.
MCSC had been working with DC I&L for nearly two years prior to the transition and understood how the advanced manufacturing process operated. Because of the familiarity MCSC has with DC I&L, the transition of the training has been smooth, said Audette.
“Marine Corps Systems Command was the logical place for advanced manufacturing to land,” said Audette. “We’ve been working with NexLog for a while, so we had all the context of a year-and-a-half of experimentation that had already been done.”
Through the Marine Maker lab, MCSC provides instructional courses on basic computer-aided design, 3D printing and other technical skills to Marines, allowing them to produce custom parts on-demand.
For example, the Corps has begun training in winter weather in recent years, creating a need for snowshoes. The clip that attaches to these shoes can easily break, causing some Marines to have to trudge through snow in regular, unprotected shoes.
A group of Marines brainstormed ideas to solve this issue, and they ultimately decided to 3D print repair clips. The group contacted AMOC, and the department taught them to 3D print clips to attach to their snowshoes.
“The Marines themselves came up with the idea for a 3D-printed snow shoe clip, and it’s been helpful for them,” said Master Sgt. Douglas McCue, additive manufacturing lead at Headquarters Marine Corps.
MCSC offers instructional courses in advanced manufacturing once a month to interested Marines. In addition to being held in the lab in Alexandria, these training sessions can take place at Marine Corps bases in North Carolina and California, and some overseas locations.
While the advanced manufacturing training transitioned to MCSC, DC I&L continues to craft advanced manufacturing policies and procedures, said McCue.
The importance of advanced manufacturing
Additive manufacturing has increased in popularity in the 21st century. Three years ago, the Corps explored the benefits of leveraging additive manufacturing on the battlefield. Several programs tested this production technique and found it to be a useful and efficient solution to everyday problems.
“The entire Marine Corps saw value in additive manufacturing,” said McCue. “After it became a program of record and more widely used across the Corps, the training transitioned to Marine Corps Systems Command.”
In a separate lab aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, AMOC leverages additive manufacturing to support the warfighter. The department uses large, industrial machines to mass-produce a collection of repair parts to send to Marines. If someone needs a batch of 3D-printed parts, the department can quickly manufacture and ship them in a timely fashion.
Additive and other forms of advanced manufacturing increase efficiency in the Corps. Marine Maker training ultimately shortens the supply chain and speeds up the time it takes for the warfighter to complete missions.
“Advanced manufacturing puts manufacturing at the point of need,” said McCue. “The Corps views that as a significant advantage.”