R-FAB 3-D printing enhances Soldier readiness one layer at a time
Story by SSG Armando Limon on 01/13/2019
U.S. ARMY GARRISON HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea The low hum of several printers fill the room, except these are not your average printers.
Instead these machines are Rapid Fabrication via Additive Manufacturing on the Battlefield (R-FAB) technology, also known as 3-D printing, used to reproduce essential parts and training aids.
The 520th Maintenance Company, 2nd Infantry Division, at U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, Republic of Korea, is working with the U.S. Army’s Research, Development, and Engineering Command- Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (RDECOM-ARDEC) to assess additive manufacturing technologies, concepts of operation and impact to Soldiers, training and vehicle readiness.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dewey Adams, an allied trades technician assigned to the 520th Maintenance Co., has been working with RDECOM-ARDEC to manufacture items that have been requested.
“We’re part of a 12 month operational assessment for additive manufacturing for the military,” Adams said. “We are trying to increase the Army’s footprint of 3-D printing by producing replacement parts and improving training aids across the military.”
Billy Binikos, assigned to ARDEC out of Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., has been working with the 520th Maintenance Co., explains the different types of printers used.
“Inside the R-FAB shelter, we have five different printers,” Binikos said. “Three of them are similar. The two that we have are the Fordess Stratasys systems the produce better quality, more in depth product. Whereas if you need any kind of writing or anything like that on that particular part we can incorporate that with the Fordess printer.”
Adams stated the use of this model allows unique training aids to be produced such as false skeletons to be used in shallow grave training for the Army’s Criminal Investigation.
One of the replacement parts fabricated by the printers are fire suppression caps for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles located on the Korean peninsula.
“The Lulzbot TAZ 6 is the low end commercial model,” Binikos said. “We can printer off materials that are either flexible or hard plastics. So if we have to do any kind of flexible caps that go on the MRAPs, we can do that on the TAZ printers.”
“The last printer have is the Markforged,” he said. “It is a little bit higher end commercial product. We can print off materials that are nylon and we can infuse it with Kevlar, carbon fiber and fiber glass to give it more rigidity. Just that extra strength that particular part would need depending on piece of equipment that it would be utilized for.”
The versatility and flexibility of the R-FAB systems allow Soldiers and units to receive the parts and material needed to keep the mission going.
“Currently our only limitation is our imagination,” Adams said. “Honestly, we could probably produce any part that you would bring us. We’re trying to increase readiness one layer at a time.”