The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the US Navy have collaborated to establish a fabrication laboratory (Fab Lab) at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC) in Norfolk, Virginia, US.
The new centre is part of DARPA’s Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach Two (MENTOR-2) programme, which is aims to reduce expenses related to logistics supply chain.
Furthermore, it will boost defence readiness by enhancing training and the tools to operate, maintain and adapt complex military equipment in low-tech environments.
MARMC project officer lieutenant Todd Coursey said: "We really want to see how best MARMC and the MENTOR-2 team can work together to support our deck plate sailors and civilians, warfighters and the Department of the Navy in general, really focusing our efforts on the development of the training, spaces and tools required to exploit advancing additive manufacturing technologies and truly enabling a more adaptive and innovative workforce."
The new lab is being established through the Fab Foundation, which is a non-profit organisation overseeing the international Fab Lab network.
Features of the new 2,000ft² technical prototyping platform include off-the-shelf, industrial-grade fabrication and electronics tools.
The MENTOR-2 programme will also deliver on-site technical training for Fab Lab technicians and managers, in addition to the deployment of the Fab Lab in the MARMC production shop.
MARMC production manager Derrick Mitchell said: "The Fab Lab will allow our sailors to think outside the box.
"If they can think it, these machines can come close to producing it. Looking ahead, this lab may prove to be very beneficial for us to create training aids [and] produce parts that at one point we would have to wait on the original manufacturer to replace.
"With the Fab Lab there seems to be real potential to create these parts right on the spot."