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NEWS | Sept. 10, 2020

Millions Saved Through Rapid Additive Manufacturing Solution

By By Kim Longstaff, Naval Surface Warfare Center Corona Corporate Communications NSWC Corona

Scientists, engineers and technical ordnance experts from Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Corona Division partnered to save the military millions using a simple solution designed to prevent rodents from destroying ordnance.

NSWC Corona’s Expeditionary Systems Engineering Division (ESED) and a Marine from 1st Marine Logistics Group (1st MLG) at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton worked on the project. Cpl. Johnny Rodriguez received the 2019 Ammunition Technician of the Year Award as a result of the innovative solution during a ceremony Aug. 27.

NSWC Corona’s Expeditionary Solution Cell (ESC), a team within the ESED, began to investigate an issue with the overall performance of mine-clearing line charges (MICLIC), which had not always deployed properly due to rodent damage. The MICLIC is a rocket-projected explosive line charge that goes into an amphibious assault vehicle and is used to clear a path for tanks, vehicles and personnel through minefields and other obstacles. The MICLIC container has four large holes, approximately the size of a half dollar, and one small hole the size of a quarter in each container. Those holes allowed rodents to enter and destroy parts.

Rodriguez of 1st MLG worked at the ESC for temporary duty orders through the unique partnership, which was designed to pair warfighters with a team who could address and fix their challenges in the field. Rodriguez, an ammunition technician – and now an additive manufacturing 3D printing expert due to his training with NSWC Corona – saw the problem and came up with an idea to create a plug with drain holes to keep the rodents out.

"Through my work experiences in ESED, I have learned that when there is a complex problem, you can utilize networking to guide you through finding a simple solution to fix it,” said Rodriguez.

The design went through prototype testing and, within a month, was ready for industry partners to create and ship immediately to Marines at Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms for use.

“In less than two weeks, the entire west coast inventory was sealed up with these plugs,” said Chris Curran, technical project manager and head of ESC.

According to Dr. Ryan Olsen, chief scientist for NSWC Corona’s ESC, the savings are estimated at a whopping $20 million in damage prevention.

“This effort highlights the importance of rapid, low cost solutions that can have a huge impact of the serviceability of fleet assets,” said Olsen. “The work being done will ensure those important assets are protected from rodent damage moving forward.”

The project was sponsored and funded by the Program Manager for Ammunition, Marine Corps Systems Command.

“Rodriguez worked with us and came up with a rapid solution to a problem specific to his unit,” said Curran. “But the bigger picture here is that we have Marines from each of the three major subordinate commands of 1 Marine Expeditionary Force working with us with the ESC team on a daily basis. Each of them are here to solve unique but not dissimilar problems for their commands. Members from 1st Marine Logistics Group, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and 1st Marine Division are all actively involved in similar projects for their parent units."

Rodriguez also earned a separate award from the commanding general of 1st MLG for designing and fabrication of tools to ease ammunition counts.

“This is one of many different success stories where the Marines bring a problem and work together for solutions with the scientists, engineers and technicians at NSWC Corona,” said Curran.

Lt. Col. Ronnie Michael, commanding officer for 1st Supply Battalion, agreed.

“Cpl. Rodriguez’s innovative thinking is exactly what we expect of Marines in today’s Marine Corps, and this is part of the culture that has been created at 1st Supply Battalion. The 1st MLG Innovation Award Program will facilitate even more creative ideas to make us a much more agile fighting force.”

NSWC Corona’s ESED is where engineering, acquisition, testing, and inventory of ground ammunition takes place for the U.S. Marine Corps in the field. For the Navy, the partnership and additive manufacturing technology aligns with several of its strategic goals, including the Department of Defense’s priority of building a more lethal force, delivering rapid solutions for a high velocity outcome and warfighting research development. Supporting the Marine Corps is part of NAVSEA’s Campaign plan to create a high-velocity learning environment.

Naval Surface Warfare Center Corona, headquartered in Norco, California, is the Navy's premier independent analysis and assessment agent, using measurement, analysis and assessment to enable our warfighters to train, fight and win. The center analyzes warfare and missile defense systems, provides systems engineering for Live Virtual Constructive training ranges, and advises and administratively manages measurement and calibration standards for the Navy and Marine Corps. Capt. Khary Hembree-Bey commands the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) field activity with a workforce of more than 3,700 scientists, engineers, contractors and support staff.