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From the
Senior Editor

Gretchen Salois

‘Fight tonight’


hile writing this, news reports bring word that new cases of COVID-19 in New York City—one of the hardest hit areas in the U.S.—are beginning to level out. Sheltering in place is working. Daily life around the world is inherently changed and each new week looks dramatically different from the last.

In the fabrication world, I’ve heard from shops managing with fewer people reporting to work while, in other cases, shops are ramping up production as their supply chains look locally instead of relying on vendors overseas. Still other shops are uncertain what their production schedules will look like in the coming months and are working to manage this new landscape.

This month’s cover story (page 18) focuses on the U.S. military’s efforts to make use of the latest fabrication technologies to enable flexibility and efficiency no matter the situation.

Additive manufacturing continues to evolve at a rapid pace. In the last few years, almost any civilian can find a 3D printer to use in their own home or business. Additive technology used by the military is harnessed by some savvy civilian users who are doing what they can to equip hospitals with ventilator attachments to help patients fallen ill to COVID-19, or face mask attachments for those in short supply.

At Camp Kinser in Okinawa, Japan, the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) uses its Metal X 3D printer to print hard-to-find metal parts to repair engines or to replace intricately shaped parts needed to keep its operations running.

We don’t have an end date for this new normal but we will adjust and we will come out on the other side of this.
At U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC), researchers work to rethink alloy compositions to lightweight vehicles and additive manufacturing technologies that will enable other departments to make repairs on the go. “We develop the recipes in our labs and hand it off,” says the CCDC’s Dr. Brandon McWilliams.

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Quincy Reynolds at Camp Kinser continues to find new ways to use the military’s first Metal X 3D printer. Where “logistics can be a hassle,” the printer cuts down lead times from months to days, he says.

As we go to print, I think about those working in the thick of uncertainty, whether treating patients, making deliveries, cleaning facilities, preparing meals, manufacturing and transporting goods, and anyone else going into work. While many of us are instructed to stay home to help flatten the curve of infection, that privilege would not be possible without those who continue to go off to a workplace to keep us steady. We don’t have an end date for this new normal but, as in any economic cycle, we will adjust and we will come out on the other side of this. That may mean stronger domestic supply chains going forward and other results yet to be revealed. Whatever the case, we must do whatever we can to remain productive while appreciating each new day as an opportunity to move forward. This too shall pass.