MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
It is amazing what you can do with two mechanical engineers, a 3-D laser scanner, projector, safety glasses and a mechanical arm that measures coordinates!
No, it isn’t the latest science fiction movie to hit the local theater, but a collection of specialized machines used in the Engineering and Integration Lab at Maintenance Center Albany.
“One of the most complex models we have designed using the FARO Arm is the skeleton of a Humvee, which shows mounting positions, mounting holes for the windshield and bracket locations, so that we can design an armor package around it,” said Jessica Walden, mechanical engineer, E&I, MCA. “The FARO Arm is accurate, within three thousandths from a six-foot radius, and is used to design or inspect material.”
The coordinate measuring machine or FARO Arm, is a reverse engineering tool that rapidly scans or verifies parts with accuracy, making it easier to perform accurate measurements of complex parts, which reduces the amount of time gathering those measurements.
“The coordinates measuring machine is a touch point measurer and it is helpful when you have an existing component. We then take the probe and touch it to the component to measure lines and mounting positions. Next, we take it to our 3-D world and use computer aided design to be able to add things to or redesign a part without having to start from scratch,” Walden explained. “We also use it to measure and inspect equipment when it comes in and for machine parts.”
For demonstration purposes, Elliott McCrary, mechanical engineer, E&I, MCA, scanned the entire room, which took two minutes, producing five million coordinate points and a 3-D image of the room using a photon laser scanner, which measures using light and is accurate to within 30 thousandths.
Another tool used in the process is the fused deposition machine, which is used to make the parts using the 3-D models that have been scanned or designed from scratch.
It excretes plastic in layers and builds the models that have been programmed in the system by one of five engineers.
“This department was set up based on a requirement during the early stages of the Gulf War where there was a requirement for armored Humvee’s and other vehicles. The management here decided we needed a dedicated team in 2006, which has since grown from three to 40 people,” said Gary Mcallister, manager, E&I, MCA.
Mcallister said his department works with any requirement that comes to them, whether it is in the form of a picture, idea by telephone or the current three-year program where they are disassembling and reassembling Buffalos, Cougars and M9ACE vehicles or other equipment.
They are establishing processes and procedures for vehicles that were not in place before.
“We have a photon laser scanner that will actually do what it will take us days to do and a fused deposition machine where we take the model that is developed using the FARO Arm or laser scanner and make a 3-D model in the computer, then print that model out in plastic and fit the part prior to spending days matching it up,” Mcallister said. “These tools have added technologies and capabilities to us that significantly reduces the time we have to respond to requirements.”
Once the designs are created in the solutions lab, they are then sent to the innovations lab.
“My job is to make sure everyone is safe and understand that we have a crucial mission. That mission is to support the war fighter with equipment, materials, and anything else they need. We have depot maintenance capabilities where we tear vehicles all the way down to the nuts and bolts, then put them back together,” said Reggie Fluellen, shop supervisor, Innovations Lab, MCA. “The unique thing is that our solutions center has engineers who look at the processes and procedures, work all of the deficiencies out, then get it back to us.”
Fluellen said it’s an honor to work at MCA and support those who are forward deployed.
“Once a Marine, always a Marine. As a recently retired master gunnery sergeant, I’ve been to Fallu-jah and Al Asad, Iraq, so I understand what the war fighter really needs,” he said.
Mcallister said that the 40 people who work in his department spend a lot of time away from their families, sometimes up to 90 hours a week for several months, so that a soldier or a Marine can survive.
“The work we do here is a life and death situation and I will never forget my counterparts who are over there and will do my best to ensure they get nothing less than the best. This is what it’s all about. This is not a job, but a way of life, because it stopped being about me a long time ago. We always begin with the end in mind because a Marine’s life really does depend on it,” Fluellen said.