The United States Marine Corps (USMC) has created a vehicle maintenance tool using additive manufacturing or 3D printing technology.

Under the initiative, Marine Corps System Command’s Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell (AMOC) teamed up with 1st Supply Battalion and industry partners to develop a 3D-printed metal steering wheel removal device.

During maintenance, the USMC typically uses a ten-way slide hammer for removing the steering wheel columns for the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement and Logistics Vehicle System Replacement.

However, the removal tool involves exerting a great deal of pressure on the steering wheel column, often damaging or breaking the device.

The lead-time for a replacement is around 25 days, leaving the vehicles out of service for a long time.

USMC seeks to leverage additive manufacturing to reduce the lead-time as solutions can be created in a fraction of the time. The usage of the new technology is also expected to help in increasing the readiness of the forces.

1st Marine Logistics Group motor transportation chief staff sergeant Kyle Owens designed and developed the first steering wheel removal device. He collaborated with corporal Aiden Bemis and AMOC engineers to design and print the tool.

The team developed multiple polymer iterations of the prototype before switching to metal.

The final prototype was created in collaboration with industry partners who specialise in additive manufacturing metal.

AMOC project officer captain Matthew Audette said: “As we put additive manufacturing and other advanced manufacturing capabilities into the maintenance battalions, we can go through and design one-off parts based on a hyper-specific need that we only need one or two of.”

The Marine Corps established AMOC in 2019. The entity conducts experiments, tests and analyses to identify ways to leverage advanced manufacturing technology.