Frustrated by a difficult repair, a young Marine developed a prototype tool in 2012 to make his life easier. Now, thanks to 3D printing and a special team at the Marine Corps' acquisition command, that tool is available to any unit.
Staff Sgt. Kyle Owens, a motor transportation chief with the 1st Marine Logistics Group, was frustrated with the standard way he was required to remove steering wheel columns for the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement and Logistics Vehicle and the Logistics Vehicle System Replacement, he explained in a statement from the branch.
The standard removal tool, a 10-way slide hammer, required Marines to exert a great deal of pressure on the steering wheel column, which often ended up cracking the columns and warping the steering wheel.
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"I was a young corporal working on trucks, and I was tired of getting chewed out for breaking the wheel," Owens said in the statement. "I was bored at lunch with my buddy one day, and we just started brainstorming a better way we could get the steering wheel off without breaking it every time."
Using scrap metal and washers he found at his motor pool, Owens came up with the first prototype replacement in 2012.
He then worked with Cpl. Aiden Bemis, a digital manufacturing engineer with 1st Supply Battalion, and engineers at the Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell, or AMOC, at Marine Corps Systems Command to help design and print the tool.
AMOC was created in January 2019 to tackle problems just like this. The team was established "in response to the increased fleet demand for the ability to print parts" and functions as a "24/7 help desk to answer questions, field requests for prints, and fully vet any part that requires fabrication by a Marine organization," according to a Marine Corps administrative message.
After creating a polymer prototype and refining the design, the service, along with industry partners, created a final design that can be manufactured on a metal printer. The printers can print a batch of 26 steering wheel removal devices in a day, the statement explained.
AMOC approved the steering wheel removal device to be used throughout the service. Marines interested in printing and using their own tool can find the blueprints in a central database. That database holds approximately 500 replacement parts designed by Marines, Capt. Matthew Audette, an AMOC project officer, said in the statement.
The Marine Corps believes that tools produced through 3D printing help decrease maintenance time and increase readiness. Instead of being confined to what is available on hand, "advanced manufacturing allows units to print items as needed," the statement adds.
Owens' solution won him an Operational Agility Team award for the Innovation Challenge, according to the statement.
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.
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