Camp Lejeune Marines learn additive manufacturing techniques at ECU

If Marines need a part to repair equipment on the battlefield, they can’t just order it from Amazon. That’s where the Marines of Combat Logistics Regiment 27, part of the 2nd Marine Logistics Group at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, come in.

About a half-dozen of these Marines came to the College of Engineering and Technology at East Carolina University for two days of training in some of the latest techniques of additive manufacturing that can play a key role in supporting Marines in battle.

Dr. Ranjeet Agarwala, assistant professor in the Department of Technology Systems in the College of Engineering and Technology, talks to Marines from Camp Lejeune.

“The new technologies that are coming out are really going to affect the military, especially metal and multi-materials,” said Dr. Ranjeet Agarwala, assistant professor in the Department of Technology Systems and the training instructor.

Additive manufacturing is technology that builds 3D objects by adding layer upon layer of material such as plastic, metal or even concrete. At ECU, the Marines used computer aided design (CAD) software to create various objects in a 3D printer.

“We fill the requests of and support surrounding units by making things if they need parts,” said Cpl. Kevin Yu. “We had someone come in the other day, and he needed faceplates for a radio made. Anytime something’s down and we have the ability to make something that will fix it, we’ll do it.”

Beyond that, the Marines also help teach others how to use the available technology.

“We’re a schoolhouse. We train Marines in technology and then spread that throughout the Marine Corps,” Yu said. “We came here to learn extra skills and programs, things we can take back to our shop and change our curriculum so we can better teach that knowledge.”

During one session, the Marines created a bracket using CAD software, changing various aspects of the bracket to increase its strength. For Cpl. Samuel Lymancruz, that meant flipping the design upside down.

“We were stress-testing different ways on how to orient it to figure out the best angle to make it stronger,” he said. “We’re judging the breaking point of each one.”

Originally, the training was designed to help prepare the Marines for the Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office Advanced Manufacturing Olympics, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the event to become virtual. Either way, the Marines felt the training at ECU came in handy.

Cpl. Samuel Lymancruz holds a 3D printed part during additive manufacturing training.

“This really exposed us to a lot of other options that are out there,” Yu said.

Agarwala has been teaching additive manufacturing to students since 2006. He had to narrow his normal course to focus on just a few main points for the Marines during their two days of training.

“We’re trying to hit the highlights,” he said. “There’s a lot of material to cover, but we’re trying to hit it just right to get everyone excited. We’re trying to give them enough knowledge for them to understand the physics, the math and the chemistry behind it, basically the STEM behind 3D printing and the engineering and the ecological aspects of 3D printing.”

Agarwala said he took pride in the opportunity to help Marines who do so much to protect the country.

“I think it’s our fundamental duty. The reason we’re protected, the reasons we have our rights and freedoms is because of them. Anything we can do to give back, we’ll do,” he said. “This has been one of my best trainings so far. The people are fabulous, very, very solid learners I would say. I really feel very proud and am very, very honored to be doing this.”