The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) made 3D printing history in 2014 when it successfully employed additively manufacturing (AM) hardware in space. Since then, NASA has upgraded the printers on board the International Space Station to increase their onsite manufacturing capabilities and decrease downtime of critical devices. In civilian industries, downtime caused by machine malfunctions, production line changes, or supply disruptions can be financially costly. For the Department of Defense (DoD) there can be another cost: human lives.
In a deployed Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) acting as a geographic combatant commander’s strategic reserve, downtime is unaffordable. The MEU’s capabilities and readiness to respond to situations across the range of military operations must be maintained. AM can give the MEU a competitive advantage by becoming the centerpiece for maintenance and the stockage of most nonmedical supply parts.
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