News | Dec. 21, 2022

Marines Move Out with First Tier 1 Expeditionary AM Machine

By Naval Air Systems Command Sustainment Group

Maintainers at Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS) 39 at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, can now deploy an additive manufactured (AM) capability in contested logistics environments thanks to a newly installed Tier 1 Expeditionary (T1X) desktop polymers AM system. Additive manufacturing is the industrial production name for 3D printing.

Recently deployed by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Sustainment Group’s (NSG) AM Team, T1X is the first deployable AM system in support of Naval Aviation, according to NAVAIR AM Program Manager Ted Gronda.

“The system enables Marines to manufacture parts in support of naval aviation and related support equipment on-demand, at the point of need, in forward deployed locations where traditional logistics may be contested,” he said.

The Marines can get right to work as there are already 126 different approved Tier 1 AM parts in support of Naval Aviation uploaded to the AM part repository hosted on a DOD website.

“Fleet maintainers can also nominate candidate AM parts through a NAVAIR AM part request process as well as produce their own AM parts for job aids (a device which simplifies a task), tools, jigs and prototypes,” AM Team Senior Fleet Liaison Officer Navy Capt. Alex Peabody said.

AM has already proved its success at MALS-39. Josh Palmer, an Air Vehicle Systems Engineering Technician from the H-1 Fleet Support Team at MALS-39, said he successfully used their Tier 2 AM system (industrial polymer) to successfully print a job aid.

“When a manual tool failed and was causing additional work, we were able to get job aid designed and printed that allowed the use of a hydraulic tool. This new AM job aid and process removed bushings in seven minutes, compared to a manual process that could take as long as 48 hours,” he said.

Marine Corps Col. Nathan Marvel, the commanding officer for Marine Aircraft Group 39, stated that he was not only impressed with the capability it provided to his maintainers, but also expressed his intention to expand its use.

“As the AH-1Z and UH-1Y type/model/series lead, I see immense potential with additive manufacturing for these H-1 platforms,” Marvel said. “I intend to be very active ensuring AM further develops for these H-1 platforms.”

“Providing this much needed capability that addresses supply gaps and directly leads to improved operational readiness to our system maintainers while reducing maintenance man-hours gives the AM team a sense of momentum,” Peabody said. “The installation at MALS-39 is one of nearly 90 planned Tier 1 desktop polymer, Tier 1X, Tier 2 industrial polymer and Tier 3 metal additive manufacturing installations across various Navy and Marine Corps locations.”

“This shows what can be accomplished when a team collaborates together with a single goal,” he said.

From the Naval Air Systems Command Sustainment Group.