ROTA, Spain --- Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133 deployed to the U.S. 5th, 6th, and 7th Fleet areas of operation with organic 3-D printing capabilities.
Along with the usual construction equipment, tools and weapons, the Seabees of NMCB-133 also brought several 3-D printers for their FY19 deployment. The process branded as additive manufacturing describes the technologies that build 3-D objects by adding layer-upon-layer of material such as plastic, concrete, or metal. Using a computer and designated software, the printer develops objects in the desired shape.
With supplied tactical fabrication kits (TACFAB), the command is able to engineer and print both original designs and certain stock numbered items. This will be revolutionary for the battalion on their deployment.
”We [Seabees] travel all over the world to aid in construction efforts," said Ensign Jake Haack, additive manufacturing division officer. "In remote locations, if something breaks, we do not have the luxury of ordering parts and receiving them in a timely manner. With additive manufacturing, we will eventually be able to forward-deploy our units with the technology to design and 3-D print a variety of parts they need. It’s the difference between getting a part in eight hours instead of eight days.”
NMCB-133 is in the preliminary phases of prototyping a variety of parts and tools. With the use of several 3-D printers in the field, the possibilities of this technology are endless. Additive manufacturing has the potential to change the way the Naval Construction Force (NCF) operates. The battalion produced several items servicing civil engineer support equipment (CESE) maintenance during its field training exercise in August where they printed more than 30 different parts and identified 50 others to be designed.
NMCB-133 is coordinating with destroyer squadron (DESRON) and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) units to produce some required parts. The printers have also been utilized to manufacture tools for use on the maintenance of CESE and on project sites.
“As a mechanic, it is extremely frustrating to see a unit of CESE be inoperable for weeks because of a single small part being unavailable,” said Construction Mechanic Constructionman Zachary Leland, additive manufacturing lead. “The only limits we have are our imaginations. Training other Seabees always brings new questions and ideas and only helps up improve our capabilities”
NMCB-133 is forward deployed to execute construction, humanitarian and foreign assistance, and theater security cooperation in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.