For the USMC, getting low-demand repair parts from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) can cause critical equipment to be grounded impacting mission success. Tackling this challenge and embracing new and innovative technology to solve obstacles has been a priority. That’s why the new CTMA project to continue the advancement of additive manufacturing (AM) adoption is an essential component of their overall strategy.
AM, also known as 3D printing, allows for rapid sustainment and decreased Maintenance Cycle Times (MCT) by providing repair parts quickly, locally (at or near the point of need), and in many cases cheaper than the OEM.
Challenges for USMC:
- OEM vendors who have gone out of business and no longer provide support to legacy equipment. In many cases, the end item is sent for disposition due to lack of supply support.
- Extended time in contracting new OEM to produce repair parts. Often, contracts go through multiple rebids prior to award.
- Expensive tooling and production line need to be stood up in order to produce repair parts. Many OEMs will not begin new tooling lines until a certain quantity threshold is requested.
- Needing to meet certain stocking criteria in order to maintain quantities on shelves. AM has the potential to eliminate stocking criteria as consumables can be made on-demand.
Part of the solution is to embrace training in all aspects of the AM process. The USMC will partner with Parmatech to train USMC subject matter experts specifically on the annealing process. Annealing is a heat treatment that alters the physical and sometimes chemical properties of a material to increase its ductility and reduce its hardness, making it more workable. To ensure a certifiable metal 3D printed part, annealing is an important process that takes knowledge and skill. The new CTMA project will support that transfer of knowledge.
“This partnership may alleviate many of the long–term supply chain deficiencies USMC has suffered,“ said Colonel Patrick Tucker, Commanding Officer of Combat Logistics Regiment 15.