Marines Look to 3D Printing for Cold-Weather Combat


The Marine Corps is doing an about-face when it comes to training. According to Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, the Marines “haven’t been in the cold-weather business in a while,” but due to some threats in Northern Europe and Northeast Asia, the military members might find themselves there – which means equipment and training needs must shift to accommodate the climate requirements.

According to Business Insider, new contracts relating to the cold-weather operations include $13 million for ski systems and requests for info on head and hand gear designed for extreme temperatures.

But much like any new venture, it’s a learning experience and Marines that have spent the last two years in Norway have struggled with equipment breaking in the rugged, unforgiving terrain. But instead of waiting out a fix, the Marines are turning to 3D printing as a solution for quick-fixes for gear on-location.

The Mountain Warfare Training Center is working in tandem with a Marine Corps System Command team that targets additive manufacturing practices and have discovered a solution for printing snowshoe clips for keeping their boots attached. The beauty of it is that they are available within days and cost just 5 cents. According to Business Insider, they have also 3D printed a cover for radio batteries that’s insulated and keeps the batteries from rapidly losing charge in the cold.

While the timelines and costs are improved, other practical reasons for 3D printing also apply: Business Insider says that in 2016, Marine unit commands were given permission to use additive manufacturing to address needs for items that didn’t fit well within a traditional supply chain and their availability were, subsequently, subject to bottlenecks. They describe these as things like “specialized tools, radio components, or items that would otherwise require larger, much more expensive repairs to replace.”

A larger project that could apply to deployments anywhere is also in the works – the X-FAB – which is described as a sort of “pop-up” 3D-printing facility, designed to support things like maintenance and logistics in the field, all from a 20-foot x 20-foot box.

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