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Maritime Logistics Community News : April 2014
27 MARITIME LOGISTICS COMMUNITY NEWSLETTER 2014 The US Navy have been investigating the possibility of using Aircraft Carriers as huge, one stop printing warehouses.5 In a recent article in the US Navy Institute Magazine "Proceedings" the authors speculate that, "Augmenting shipboard supply departments with 3D printers can alleviate the need to carry large stocks of pre-manufactured stores. Instead of spending weeks trying to track down a repair part or seldom-used consumable, a repair-parts petty officer could scan the discarded part labeled with a barcode quick response (QR) code, or some other embedded identifier that, once scanned, sends the item's schematics to queue at the nearest printer."6 The authors acknowledge that "It will take years, likely decades, to overcome all these challenges" but "The potential cost and capability benefits are enormous"7 Supply Chain considerations When you give it some thought, the ability to create replacement parts for equipment on site through the use of 3D printing would have a huge effect on the supply chain. Consider the implications within NIPO, warehousing or distribution, stocktaking, use by dates, issuing, returns, URDEFS, MATCONNOFF or UMS and consigned cargo. To take it one step further, if you imagine this technology in a fully mature state, what else could be printed? (Food? Ammunition? Medical drugs?) Waste considerations Traditional machining techniques, such as drilling, cutting or sanding, rely on removing excess material to create the required item. 3 D printing is an additive process where an item is created by adding, or building on, the previous layer. Its easy to see the reductions in waste materials that can be achieved when all you use is the amount of powder required to make the product. Packaging is another area that would benefit from the introduction of 3D printing. If you don't have to transport or store the item, you don't have to pack it. Shelf life expiry would be a thing of the past, along with chasing wheat filler packaging down the wharf when receipting items. Other savings might be found in the removal of picking slips, bar coding, receipt of incorrect or damaged items, stock taking, freight charges, the list goes on. Medical Considerations The ability to create replacement limbs, organs or tissue would no doubt save lives. Whether from combat, civil unrest or natural disaster, casualties could be treated using reproductions made with their own biological material. No having to find matching donors, no fear of rejection, no danger to those donating organs, and best of all, less lives lost. 3D printing has allowed considerable advancements in the field of medicine. From prosthetic limbs to orthopaedic, maxillofacial, spinal and dental implants and even replacement organs. In 2011 a new titanium lower jaw was fitted to an 83 year old woman whose own jaw had been destroyed by a chronic infection. The jaw was covered with a bioceramic material to resist rejection by the body. The process included printing cavities in the jaw to allow for regrowth of nerves and muscle reattachment.8 Australia is at the forefront of research into printing tissue. Melbourne's St Vincent's Hospital will house a new University of Wollongong research unit that will investigate the use of 3D printing to reproduce tissue material. That is just the beginning according to Professor Mark Cook who says the process could eventually do away with organ transplants.9 "In the future, these sorts of devices will be able to recreate parts of people's joints and bones, conceivably, in the future, even organs." Imagine what effect this could have in the aftermath of natural disasters and during humanitarian assistance taskings. 3D printing and the ADF When you consider the implications of this technology it has the potential to completely transform the way the ADF does business. While still in its infancy, 3D printing technology could eliminate the need to carry all but the most high tech Naval Stores. Instead of MILIS you could have a database of CAD images that you would be able to use to create the required item. Better still, rather that have to store the images onboard, you could simply download the required image from ashore. The boundaries are almost limitless. It is acknowledged that this is a very optimistic view of this emerging technology. This article hasn't ventured into issues with Objective Quality Evidence or Trademark and Intellectual Property rights. There is no mention of the impact on the worlds manufacturing industries or the plight of those currently employed to create, sell, and distribute items that might be printed in the future. Most importantly the technology is currently slow, expensive and limited in what it can deliver. There are still many hurdles to cross and many questions to be answered but if it reaches its full potential 3D printers could well print us out of Nil Stock Global, but only until we run out of printer suppliers of course. 5 http://armedforcesjournal.com/2013/05/13520067/ 14 Jun 13 6 http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2013-04/print-me-cruiser. 12 June 2013 7 http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2013-04/print-me-cruiser. 12 June 2013 8 http://www.dezeen.com/2013/05/19/3d-printing-organs-medicine-print-shift/ 9 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-05-03/3d-printers-on-track-to-print-body-parts/4666886 14 Jun 13