Marines Use 3D Printing to Repair Snowshoes

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Traditional snowshoe design [Image: LL Bean}

Snowshoes are a very old type of winter footwear, developed by indigenous people centuries ago. The design is brilliant – a webbed lacing, or, in the case of some modern snowshoes, synthetic fabric, stretched over a frame to distribute the wearer’s weight over a larger area and allow them to walk on top of the snow. While modern snowshoes may look quite different than the original designs, they’re still made according to the same concept. Just because a design is old and proven, however, doesn’t mean that it can’t benefit from the addition of new technology.

While snowshoes are often used for recreational purposes, they also play a big role in the military. The Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC) in northern California trains Marines for mountainous conditions and cold weather operations. During the winter months, snow can reach up to six to eight feet with temperatures as cold as 20 degrees below zero. Snowshoes are a must – and if they break, they have to be able to be fixed quickly.

Modern snowshoes [Image: LL Bean]

Marines at the MWTC along with the AM Team at the Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC), recently worked together to 3D print snowshoe clips quickly and cheaply so that soldiers can be equipped with replacements if they need them in the field.

“If a Marine is attacking a position in the snow while in combat, and the clip on their boot breaks, it makes it difficult for the Marine to run forward with a rifle uphill to complete the mission. If he or she has a 3D printed clip in their pocket, they can quickly replace it and continue charging ahead,” said Capt. Matthew Friedell, AM project officer in MCSC’s Systems Engineering and Acquisition Logistics.

The 3D printed snowshoe clips were made from strong and flexible resin and cost only five cents per piece. The team designed and 3D printed the clips within three days of the request.

“The capability that a 3D printer brings to us on scene saves the Marine Corps time and money by providing same-day replacements if needed. It makes us faster than our peer adversaries because we can design whatever we need right when we need it, instead of ordering a replacement part and waiting for it to ship,” said Capt. Jonathan Swafford, AM officer at MWTC.

[Image: Marines]

The Marines have been using 3D printing regularly to create replacement parts, including a recent insulated radio cover. The radios that the Marine Corps use have lithium ion batteries that die quickly in the cold, so the AM Team designed a 3D printed cover that keeps the batteries warmer and helps them to last longer in wintry conditions.

“Just like the Commandant says, it’s important we continue innovating at all levels to remain ahead of our adversaries. Even our youngest Marines should be focused on innovation,” said Swafford. “The more of us who know how to use and design with this process, the better off we will be.”

The Marines share files using the Marine Maker website, and it’s not just used for replacement parts – additive manufacturing is also being utilized for prototyping and design.

“More than ever before, we are able to use 3D printing as a catalyst to spark everyone’s imagination for quick-fix solutions,” said Friedell. “The Marine Corps is leading the way in additive manufacturing, and we have to continue to use AM in every level of our warfare to fix equipment and weapons faster than the enemy and stay in the fight.”

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

[Source: Marines]

 

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