US Marines are Using LulzBot 3D Printers to Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

In an era where logistics have never been more complicated, 3D printing in the military offers Marines the much-needed ability to travel lighter with a higher degree of adaptability. With LulzBot 3D Printers leading the charge toward fostering a culture of innovation, the Marine Corps is ready to incorporate additive manufacturing and uses for 3D printing into every aspect of what they do.

Marines and LulzBot 3D Printers

Pictured: Cpl. Christopher Bigham and Col.Farrell J. Sullivan. Photo Credit: Cpl. Jon Sosner

The Next Generation Logistics (NexLog) initiative, led in part by Col. Howard Marotto and Captain Matthew Friedell, was established in 2015 to accelerate the development and integration of emerging technologies like 3D printing in the military. “We see it as being absolutely transformative,” Marotto said. “It’s not just about untethering yourself from the supply chain. It’s also about being able to rapidly innovate to the threat in the field.”

“Charlie Mike:” Marines Continue Mission with LulzBot 3D Printers

Initially, 3D printing appealed to the military because it presented a solution to the ongoing shortage of spare parts for aging equipment. “A lot of our older equipment in the Marine Corps, nobody wants to make those items or parts for,” Marotto said. “So we might have to become our own manufacturers on certain low-demand, obsolete type items because the industrial base won’t support us, because there’s no money in it.”


3D Printed Humvee Handle

Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Andrew Huff

Designing and 3D printing replacement handles for the notoriously fragile standard handles on some of their Humvees is only one of the many ways Marines are relying on 3D printing to “Charlie Mike,” their term for “Continue Mission.” Friedell expressed his affinity for the LulzBot MOARstruder Tool Head, which is a popular choice for those seeking rapid prototyping capabilities and part strength. “I use a MOARstruder on the thing and it prints in an hour, and you can’t break that thing… that’s my favorite example of using a LulzBot and more specifically, the MOARstruder.”


3D-Printed Solutions in Expeditionary Environments

The Marine Corps has also begun intensive training in extremely cold environments, which puts a whole new set of demands on their gear and presents more uses for 3D printing in the military. With LulzBot 3D Printers at the ready, the Marines now have a tool that enables them to continue charging ahead. “We have a snowshoe in our inventory and Marines keep breaking small retaining clips.,” Friedell said. “So we had Marines redesign them and we’re actually able to 3D print them and throw them on the snowshoes, and now we have snowshoes that don’t fall off our feet.”

Expounding on the advantages LulzBot 3D Printers provide for the Marine Corps, Friedell explained, “It’s stuff like buckles that you don’t think would be very valuable, but they’re huge in an expeditionary environment. If your buckle breaks that’s holding your weapon, your life is gonna suck for the next 10 miles or 3 weeks until you can get a new plastic buckle. So having that ability is huge.”

For those Marines stationed around the world in harsh environments, the ruggedness, reliability, and ease-of-use of LulzBot 3D Printers serve as mission-critical assets as well as personal life savers. “I’ve been a big proponent of LulzBot [3D Printers] because it’s just bulletproof, and that’s the reason we put it out there,”  Friedell said. “We literally load them up in [watertight] cases, unbox them…. they level themselves, and they’re printing in five minutes. So the durability of them, the flexibility of them, is awesome.”

Read Part One of the US Marines Series here ➡

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