Different combat situations require different kinds of equipment. Earlier, US army usually sent feedback back to home where a rapid equipment force would then create the appropriate gear according to the needs of the soldiers. Now, the very prototyping lab has been brought to Afghanistan for on-spot prototyping.
The unit of the army which deals with urgent request for new equipment is called Rapid Equipping Force(REF). This unit has now piled up its machines and lab gear into a 20-foot container and have been shipped to Afghanistan. Here, the team will be able to deliver quick, on-the-spot solutions to combat situations.
A number of labs have been deployed to the war-torn Afghanistan where scientists and researchers will be able to study the problem first-hand and then create solutions for it right away.
According to the commander of Army’s REF at Fort Belvoir, Col. Pete Newell, “The soldiers out there, they know how to do stuff; they know how to fix stuff and they know what they need to be able to do, but what they don’t have is the technical expertise in many cases to do it themselves.” And that is precisely why these mobile labs have been taken to them.
Conventionally, soldiers would submit their equipment requests via Operational Needs Statement. This statement was provided to the developers who would then create a solution. But the whole process takes time and in some instance, by the time a gear is ready, it is no longer needed.
The new mobile labs can deliver solutions within a matter of days, thus being more effective as well as timely. Each of these labs costs $2.8 million and are equipped with a Rapid Prototyping 3D printer as well as a Computer Numerical Control Machining System, circular saws, jigsaws, welders, routers and other related stuff. Each lab is handled by two engineers who are trained for the very task. Moreover, each lab has its own air conditioning and heating/cooling systems.
According to Newell, “This is cutting-edge technology that allows you to actually print parts and pieces to things. They are not really inventing something new; they are modifying something that exists already so they can do something else.” The video below will give you an idea of how each of these labs is an independent unit which can be placed virtually anywhere:
Courtesy: Extreme Tech