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ABRAHAM LINCOLN CAPITAL AIRPORT, IL -- The 183d Maintenance Squadron (MXS) has been identified as a possible partner to expand additive manufacturing (AM) for the Air National Guard (ANG) and United States Air Force (USAF). The USAF AM Strategic Implementation Plan (AMSIP) is one of many directives citing intentions to enhance AM capabilities throughout the Department of Defense (DoD). Specifically the AMSIP cites the need to move from decentralized control and execution, to a centralized cloud-based, cyber-secure parts library providing the 183 MXS and other nodes on-demand print anywhere capabilities.
Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, is a transformative approach to industrial production that enables the creation of lighter, stronger parts and systems. Additive manufacturing uses data computer-aided-design (CAD) software or 3D object scanners to direct hardware to deposit material, layer upon layer, in precise geometric shapes. As its name implies, additive manufacturing adds material to create an object.
The visiting Innovation Tour team was composed, in part, of Brig Gen Donald K. Carpenter, NGB/A4 Director, Mr. Chuck Melton, Associate Director NG/A4, Dr. Howard Sizek, Air Force Research Laboratory Liaison to Rapid Sustainment Office, Mr. Eddie Preston, Rapid Sustainment Office, and Chief Master Sgt. Frank Harpster, AFMC/AFSC Senior Enlisted Leader, toured the 183 MXS Centralized Repair Facility (CRF), and met with Illinois Air National Guard, 183d Wing, and 183 MXS senior leadership to discuss the possibility of implementing the additive manufacturing process to the capabilities of the organization. The discussion centered around the fundamentals of AM, the unique characteristics of the 183 MXS compared to traditional flying units, and the effort to partner with the Air Force Sustainment Center and the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex (OC-ALC) Reverse Engineering and Critical Tooling (REACT) lab. By establishing aviation compliant polymer and metal printing across the USAF, and in forward locations, the ability to generate aircraft parts and specialized tooling would not be hindered by global supply network challenges.
If implemented, AM could expand 183d production capabilities and improve legacy tool inventories. The 183 MXS currently utilizes the fundamentals of subtractive manufacturing and machining, process of removing and cutting material to attain a desired shape and size for a given application. This form of manufacturing is employed in a per piece fabrication versus a production process. By partnering with OC-ALC, AM partners and the ANGRC, the 183 MXS could be the first unit to implement AM concepts and practices at home and in support of oversees contingency operations in an effort to improve aircraft availability.
183 MXS is an intermediate repair facility, servicing four types of aircraft engines, used to power five different aircraft at 15 Air National Guard (ANG) units across the county, and was the recipient of the ANG Maintenance Effectiveness Award for 2020.