MCTSSA Hosts Test and Demonstration Days for XFAB> U.S. Marine Corps Flagship> News Viewing
The Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity hosted a team of design experts who tested the network connectivity of the Portable Expeditionary Manufacturing Lab, also known as XFAB, at Camp Pendleton, 5-9 April.
The XFAB is a self-contained, transportable additive manufacturing lab that can be deployed with battalion-level marine maintenance units. The 20-by-20-foot shelter is collapsible for easier transport and houses five 3D printers, a laser scanner, a laser cutter, and a computer design software system that allows Marines to fabricate spare and repair parts in one expeditionary environment.
“MCTSSA provides an excellent opportunity to exercise the XFAB on the [Marine Corps Enterprise Network] and capture messaging traffic and data packaging messages in real time, ”said Robert Davies, project manager for manufacturing equipment under the program director for supply and maintenance systems at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The test directors and support staff at MCTSSA have been a pleasure working with them.”
The purpose of the test event was to assess the connectivity of the Marine Corps closed computer network to determine if any adjustments are required before reaching final operational capability and to provide laboratories to the Marine Forces fleet in June 2022 .
XFAB has been in the development phase for about five years. It is designed to provide Marines with a means to innovate by creating their own manufacturing tools, parts and signage. This unique ability can be used in forward deployed locations when specialized and hard to find parts are not readily available.
“… the maintenance community is extremely excited to receive their assets and start using the scanning and 3D printing capabilities.” Robert Davies, Manufacturing Equipment Project Officer
“The MCTSSA is a great place for this type of testing and demonstration,” said Lt. Col. Michael Liguori, commander of MCTSSA. “Our location makes it easy for fleet units to tour and see the equipment layout firsthand. We are proud to support the Supply and Maintenance Systems Program Manager and his team as they move closer to bringing this new capability into service with the task forces.
Impact and implementation:
Each lab is equipped with two Lulzbot TAZ Workhorse 3D printers, two Markforged X7 3D printers, a Platform 3000 Series 3D printer, an Epilog Fusion Pro 32 laser cutter and a Quantum FAROArm S 3D laser scanner. The XFAB Also comes standard with three laptops, two workstations and a 55 ‘LED TV screen.
When integrated with a maritime expeditionary force, the XFAB will reduce the logistics footprint of the maintenance battalion by eliminating the need to transport large quantities of spare parts.
“Since this technology and overall asset is new to FMF, the maintenance community is extremely excited to receive its assets and start using the scanning and 3D printing capabilities,” said Davies. “While some FMF units have 3D printers, these assets were purchased with unit funds.”
The XFAB capability is an MCSC registration program and will be a supported asset in the fleet, which will make integration for deployments much easier, Davies said.
During the test event at MCTSSA in early April, senior leaders and Marines from 1st Marine Logistics Group, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Regiment, 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing got a firsthand look at the equipment and how they can make parts and products.
The XFAB container runs on generator or shore power, and takes a team of four Marines two to three hours to set up and tear down. It weighs approximately 10,500 pounds fully equipped and can be transported via the Logistics Vehicle System Replacement System or a commercial flatbed truck.
A new tool
Photo by Amy Forsythe
A new tool in the toolkit for FMF:
By design, the XFAB and its components are to be operated by a marine machinist, as their primary functions include supporting unit maintenance, including manufacturing, repairing or modifying equipment. However, the XFAB is made up of multiple workstations that would require the presence of a single Marine to operate equipment and tools.
Multiple items can be printed and manufactured, including detonation cord connector, SABER handle removal tool, radio handset covers, M320 strut tool, wheeled vehicle door handles Heavy-Duty High Mobility Multipurpose Racks and a Universal Load Stud Wrench for use with all generators.
“Due to the solid MCEN design of our support facilities, Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane and Carderock, we had no redesign effort required and passed all tests at MCTSSA with no outstanding issues to resolve,” said added Davies.
A future design is under development with a more tactical version of XFAB called Tactical Manufacturing and will near its go-live decision soon, Davies added. This system will be slightly limited in capacity but will be modular, stored in pelican boxes, and is specific to a particular MOS.
The current need is to deliver 21 XFAB units. II Marine Expeditionary Force is expected to receive the first sometime in mid-2022.