III MEF uses additive manufacturing to mass produce PPE in the fight against COVID-19

U.S. Marine, Staff Sgt. Quincy Reynolds, the innovation officer with 3d Maintenance Battalion, 3d Marine Logistics Group, displays a mask created from a 3D printer on Camp Courtney, April 15, 2020. Marines and sailors with III Marine Expeditionary Force are using cutting-edge additive manufacturing technology here to mass produce and distribute personal protective equipment in the fight against COVID-19. (U.S Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Nickolas C. Beamish)
U.S. Marine, Staff Sgt. Quincy Reynolds, the innovation officer with 3d Maintenance Battalion, 3d Marine Logistics Group, displays a mask created from a 3D printer on Camp Courtney, April 15, 2020. Marines and sailors with III Marine Expeditionary Force are using cutting-edge additive manufacturing technology here to mass produce and distribute personal protective equipment in the fight against COVID-19. (U.S Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Nickolas C. Beamish)

III MEF uses additive manufacturing to mass produce PPE in the fight against COVID-19

by Ryan Bruce
III Marine Expeditionary Force

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP BUTLER, OKINAWA, Japan – Marines and sailors with III Marine Expeditionary Force are using cutting-edge additive manufacturing technology here to mass produce and distribute personal protective equipment in the fight against COVID-19.

III MEF has 3D printed and distributed more than 400 face shields and 4,800 face mask frames to its forces throughout Okinawa, freeing up the PPE supply chain for medical personnel and first responders.

“We can create things that don’t exist and solve problems in a new, innovative way,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Sean Flores, III MEF force utilities officer. “I think that's the key to fighting any adversary, to include COVID-19.”

When confronted with a potential shortage of PPE, Marines in III MEF rapidly developed an innovative answer.

“We recognized the problem, turned our Marines loose, and within 48 hours we had developed, tested, and mass-produced a solution,” said Flores. “It’s incredible what our Marines can do when given a problem that requires creative thinking.”

The plastic face shields prevent airborne germs from reaching the wearer. The face mask frames, when combined with a cloth covering, create a seal around the wearer’s mouth and nose, stopping Marines and sailors from potentially spreading germs. In total, they are increasing the MEF’s resiliency throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

3rd Maintenance Battalion and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 36 were the first units to produce face shields and mask frames for III MEF, but production has spread throughout the island. The effort has been collaborative, leveraging the capabilities of the joint force, including Navy healthcare professionals and additive manufacturing specialists at the Air Force’s 18th Wing.

III MEF has utilized additive manufacturing assets located throughout the Marine Air Ground Task Force to attack the PPE problem. The nation’s only permanently forward-deployed expeditionary force has over 60 printers running around the clock on Okinawa to continue to adapt and refine PPE production to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

“Traditionally, we make supplies for weapons systems – for trucks, but today we’re making PPE for people to be protected against COVID-19,” said Lt. Col. Matt Milburn, commanding officer of 3rd Maintenance Battalion. “We were able to shift our focus in a matter of hours.”

The mask frames and face shields, coupled with preventive measures in place by Marine Forces – Japan, are minimizing the effects of COVID-19 on the force’s readiness and demonstrating III MEF’s capability to produce resources as soon as they are needed.

“These masks protect our most vital asset, the Marine and sailor” said Flores.

Additive manufacturing is also a force multiplier, said Flores. III MEF is not only able to produce personal protective equipment to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but a variety of vital equipment it may need to complete its mission throughout the Indo-Pacific.

“3D printing makes us flexible and agile,” said Milburn. “This technology gives a small footprint and a big advantage. We can localize the production process and create a new supply chain, setting us apart and up for success.”

“We are helping to create supply where supply did not exist,” said Milburn. “We have built things for every element of the MAGTF.”

For questions about III Marine Expeditionary Force’s response to COVID-19, contact III Marine Expeditionary Force, Communication Strategy and Operations at iiimefmedia@usmc.mil. Visual information products detailing III MEF’s additive manufacturing can be found at:

https://www.dvidshub.net/news/367397/innovate-prevent-spread-iii-mef-combats-covid-19-with-3d-printing

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