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By Todd Hurley,
NSWC Carderock Division Public Affairs
In 2022, Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Carderock Division employees in the Platform Integrity Department and NSWC Crane Division collaborated to provide Expeditionary Fabrication (XFAB) systems to various U.S. Marine Corps bases throughout the world. Now, on the heels of that effort, Carderock is once again partnering with the USMC, this time to provide a Tactical Fabrication (TACFAB) Additive Manufacturing kit.
The XFAB system was developed for deploying to Marines in the field to enable expeditionary forces to shorten their supply chains and allow for the creation of critical, time sensitive or hard-to-procure components as far forward on the battlefield as possible. Its contents consist of two small polymer 3D printers, two advanced polymer 3D printers, one large format polymer 3D printer, a laser cutter and a laser 3D scanner with its own internal network, and several high performing computers required to successfully run the software suite. With this system, Marines have the capability to design, reverse engineer and print components all in one location.
TACFAB is a similar product, but is much more widespread, more mobile and more easily deployed. Its primary use is to additively manufacture replacement parts in a quick and inexpensive manner. While the XFAB was designed for distribution exclusively to Marine machinists and welders, the TACFAB is not specific to any military occupational specialty. TACFAB is composed of three separate hard transit cases measuring 3 feet by 2.3 feet by 2 feet, each consisting of various items such as one small polymer 3D printer with two rolls of polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG) material, one advanced polymer 3D printer with two rolls of material chopped carbon fiber nylon material, one roll each of reinforced fiber material (carbon fiber and Kevlar), a laptop, mouse, general support equipment, such as tape measures, calipers and pliers and software to support the operation.
The Carderock team supporting this collaboration is comprised of members in the Additive Manufacturing Branch, including: Drazen Hadzialic, a technical program manager and USMC team lead, as well as engineers Angie Han, Brennen Cheung and Ryan Fisher. They are sponsored by USMC Program Manager Supply Maintenance Systems, led by Project Officer Robert Davies.
“TACFAB is essentially three hard transit cases that can fit on the back of a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle or Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, rather than having to be towed by a larger heavy-duty Logistic Vehicle System Replacement,” Cheung said. “It is designed to be deployed as far forward in the field as possible. The original prototype for this was fielded in 2016. We had a limited user experience prototype fielded to a few different Marine Corps bases. We received feedback back from them, which then led to us getting funding for this to be a Program of Record in 2021.
The Carderock team is currently in the final testing phase, with a fielding decision to be made by the end of May. They have an approved acquisition objective of 168 assets scheduled to be fielded to various USMC bases over the next three to five years, with 34 scheduled to be fielded by the end of FY23.
Once delivered, the Carderock team will be in charge of training the Advanced Manufacturing Training Center (AMTC) instructors on how to use TACFAB, who will then go on to train other Marines. These AMTC’s are located at I Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEF) at Camp Pendleton, California, II MEF at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, III MEF in Okinawa, Japan and Hawaii. The trainings will consist of classroom instructions, such as equipment pack-out and set-up, equipment operation, including software and maintenance. Additionally, Carderock’s Creative Media Branch is working with Hadzialic and his team to create a pack-out and set-up video, as well as a various how-to videos to be provided to the instructors at the ATMC’s.