Untapped Potential of 3D Printing In Marine Corps
by U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Joseph Prado
May 3, 2019
1st Lt. Ryan McCormic sat in the middle of his 3D printing
laboratory watching as the honeycombs, slowly but surely, took form.
Honeycombs, the colloquial nickname attached to the filters that
keep reflections on scope lenses from giving away Marine positions,
can make the difference between life and death on the battlefield.
U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Ryan McCormic, the motor transport officer with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, showcases 3D printing capabilities at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Feb. 19, 2018. 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment is the first infantry battalion on the west coast to implement 3D printing at their unit. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Prado)
McCormic, the motor transport officer for 2nd Battalion, 7th
Marine Regiment (V-2/7), has established a 3D printing workspace in
a small room above the motor pool workshop.
more formally known as additive manufacturing, is the process of
starting from nothing and building up from it,” stated McCormic.
“Generally speaking you can build anything plastic that you want or
even in some cases anything that’s rubber.”
realized the possibilities of 3D printing when he had an idea to
reconfigure an ammo can to create a more diverse piece of workout
McCormic contacted 1st Maintenance Battalion on
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in search of this capability but
was told ‘We can’t do that but there are opportunities for your
Marines and yourself to learn to print anything you’d like.’
“That ended up with us getting our own 3D printer from our regiment
and by trial and error I started learning the process myself and
teaching other Marines,” said McCormic. “We thought the easiest
thing to print would be a door handle because with a lot of the soft
back Humvee’s that we have, the interior door handles break.”
“Once I made the first part I thought ‘Wow, I can do so much
more with this,’” McCormic expressed.
At first glance, having
the ability to 3D print a door handle may not seem so
groundbreaking. However, with the right initiative and equipment,
McCormic could help improve infantry battalions across the Marine
“One of the big things is, when I was deployed on a
Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force last year, it took a
while for parts to get out to certain [locations],” McCormic
The amount of time it takes to replace something in
a deployed environment could be anywhere from days to weeks, which
can leave vehicles or weapons out of service for an extended amount
In addition to substantially decreasing the wait
time on repairing equipment while deployed, additive manufacturing
could also cut back spending while in garrison. For example,
honeycombs can be 3D printed for less than a dollar—a micro fraction
of the retail price.
“One of my plans is that we take our 3D
printer with us on [deployment] and utilize it in country when
somebody tells us that we have a dead vehicle or a [faulty] weapon,”
said McCormic. “We bring this 3D printer and instead of possibly
having a 2-3 week wait time for the part, we can print it right
With V-2/7 being the only infantry battalion on the
west coast conducting in-house 3D printing, McCormic’s main goal at
the moment is gaining the attention of other infantry battalions who
may benefit from additive manufacturing.
What started off as
a simple idea has transcended into a very tangible program with
“I’m very fortunate here at V-2/7—my
entire command deck and every person I’ve talked to is extremely
supportive of my use of 3D printing,” said McCormic. “I definitely
would give thanks to all the units out there that really supported
us from the unit level of commanders saying ‘This is a great idea, I
think you should run with it,’ down to the Lance Corporals that have
been showing me how to do certain things with 3D printing that I
would otherwise never know.”
Years ago, the Commandant of the
Marine Corps pushed guidance promoting innovation and calling for
disruptive thinkers throughout the Marine Corps. Programs like the
Commandant’s Innovation Challenge create forums that challenge
Marines to bring their best ideas to light.
answered the Commandant’s call by submitting a number of innovative
ideas pertaining to additive manufacturing and the positive effects
it could potentially hold for the Marine Corps.
the solution to your problem is right at your fingertips,” said
McCormic. “You just have to know where to go to start solving that
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