The 82nd Airborne Division’s Innovation Lab conducted the first additive manufacturing course at Fort Bragg, on 21-24 February 2023. Ten students from across multiple commands attended the course designed to teach the basic concepts of additive manufacturing and how to efficiently implement it within the Department of Defense. Students included soldiers from the 82nd ABN DIV, 18th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB), and 3rd Special Forces Group (SFG).
The course was broken into two portions – designing and printing. The first half covered how to model components using computer-aided design, reverse engineering, and design optimization. The second half covered additive manufacturing techniques, teaching different technologies, software, and materials that can be used to 3D print.
Designing and 3D printing skills are traditionally reserved for Allied Trades Specialists (91E), however, soldiers of every discipline can benefit from learning design and additive manufacturing. “I can use my experience [as a 25U] and innovate things that can help my specific MOS,” said Staff Sgt. Yems Figeuroa, a Signal Support Systems Specialist (25U).
The Fort Bragg course ended with a capstone project, which required students to design a prototype device of their own inception. The resulting projects were as varied as the experiences and interests that the soldiers brought to the table. As a 25U, Figeuroa built a mount to secure a radio and battery to an antenna to increase the range.
Maj. Wiggins, 18th Field Artillery Brigade’s Innovation Officer, built a handcuff skeleton key which can be hidden in the aglet of a bootlace. “Some reports show that during WWII there were as many as 130,000 POWs. I was thinking of our future Soldiers who could find themselves in an environment like that and wanted to provide them an option for escape so that they can keep fighting, get back home, and be with their families again.”
As innovation continues to be a priority across the US Department of Defense, courses like this one offered by the Airborne Innovation Lab (AIL) are only expected to become more common.
“This course enabled Soldiers to gain the ability to bring their ideas to life. This course just provides a rock-solid foundation and know-how to truly unleash their inner innovation,” said Staff Sgt. Brendan Webster, the Airborne Innovation Lab’s Additive Manufacturing Lead.
A complete course schedule can be found here.