The global Maker movement has found a home in the United States Marine Corps. The Maker movement pairs modern and relatively inexpensive digital manufacturing tools with a Do It Yourself (DIY) mentality. By pairing the training and tools of the Maker movement with the Marine Corps’ culture of “adapt and overcome”, the Marine Corps will catalyze the initiative and experience of Marines to design and fabricate solutions to a myriad of future unknowable problems. This effort is known as Marine Makers (www.md5.net/MarineMaker).
Over the past 14 months and through the direct support of the Secretary of the Navy’s Strategy & Innovation office, the Marine Corps has greatly increased the exploration of additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing. In the long-term, 3D printing offers the possibility to reduce maintenance costs, increase equipment readiness, and improve combat effectiveness. In the near-term, the Marine Corps has begun testing the use of 3D printing to solve current-day and low-risk challenges, such as those encountered on aircraft, vehicles, weapons, and communications equipment.
This testing is supported through the first service-level policy for the use of 3d printing technologies, found via the Marine Corps “Interim Policy on the use of Additive Manufacturing” via MARADMIN. In addition to these equipment-focused benefits, the Marine Corps sees great value in creating an environment where Marines of all specialties are empowered to design, test, and create solutions to any operational challenge they face.
To facilitate this vision, the Next Generation Logistics Innovation cell (NexLog) of HQMC Installations & Logistics has established the Marine Maker initiative. This initiative connects and enables a rapidly growing community of Marine Makers. The tenets of Marine Maker include Maker Units, Maker Labs, Maker Mobile Training, and digital collaboration.
Maker Units are self-selected units that are ready to explore the versatility and utility of Making in the Marine Corps. Maker Units have a kit of Maker software and equipment embedded in the unit in order to better accomplish their mission. The type of kit can be configured based on the mission, but typically consists of a 3D printer or mini-mill along with a laptop and software to support design and production. Over the past year, over a dozen 3D printers have been deployed to Marine units overseas and in the United States. These units span the spectrum of the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF), to include intelligence, explosive ordinance disposal, rifle battalions, special operations units, maintenance battalions, training commands, and even a Marine Wing Support Squadron. A unit of any size or type may request support from NexLog to explore becoming a Maker Unit.
Additionally, Maker Labs are being established in at least three Marine Corps installations over the next several months. Each Lab will host a variety of training and equipment to familiarize users with the software and tools for rapid prototyping and creative exploration. This will include computer-aided design (CAD) software for developing 3D models, in addition to the mills, laser cutters, and 3D printers to produce them. Electronics software and programming tools will also be available in some Maker Labs to allow prototyping of more sophisticated electromechanical systems. Maker Labs are designed for open access to as wide a community as possible, regardless of occupation, rank, or prior experience with design and prototyping.
Our team is also exploring the idea of Maker Sandboxes, serving as small, easily accessible, areas which allow for reduced restrictions on the testing and operation of experimental equipment so that Marine Makers can test their ideas in the wild. To facilitate this vision, the Next Generation Logistics Innovation cell (NexLog) of HQMC Installations & Logistics has established the Marine Maker initiative. This initiative connects and enables a rapidly growing community of Marine Makers. The tenets of Marine Maker include Maker Units, Maker Labs, Maker Mobile Training, and digital collaboration.
Marine Maker Mobile Training will begin in early 2017 as a series of week-long Maker training events held at various Marine Corps installations. Each Mobile Training session will take a cohort of 8-10 Marines from various units, working together in small teams to complete multiple challenges over the course of a week. During each session, Marines will be trained to use a variety of tools to rapidly address mission-critical problems. These tools include welding, basic machining, plasma cutting, Computer Aided Design (CAD) for 3D modeling, 2D vector graphics design, 3D printing, laser cutting, computer-controlled milling, soldering, fundamentals of electricity, electronic circuit design, microcontroller programming, and software coding.
Finally, a digital collaboration portal will be established to support the Marine Maker community. Marine Makers will be able to find other Makers, find web-based training, join together on projects, even share files within a project. This portal will be designed for maximum access through Marines on duty, at home, and via mobile. Commercial solutions are already being tested for 2161 Machinists. Beta Testing of the new sites will begin in early 2017.
Marines from all occupations, ranks, and experience levels are encouraged to join in the Marine Maker initiative — through their unit, Maker Labs, Mobile training, and digital collaboration. Marines interested in more information can visit the Marine Maker website (www.md5.net/MarineMaker) to contact our team and to find information on upcoming events and initiatives.
The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense or the United States government.
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