The team that 3D prints together increases capability together

Mayris Rios, an engineering and architecture student trainee with the Multiuse Lab Environment (MULE), proudly displays the keychain she 3D printed. Rios was part of the lab’s team-building and training event held in the Software Sandbox at the iHub.

Linda S. Johnson, Multi-Use Lab Environment (MULE) lead, believes everyone in the lab should know how to 3D print, not just engineers and computer scientists.

“By understanding what it takes to do a 3D print, everyone can be involved in finding opportunities to use this technology in efforts to reduce costs,” she said. “We’re a small team of about 20 across different disciplines, but by using everyone’s creativity, we should be able to fully exploit this capability.”

To that end, Johnson reserved the Software Sandbox in the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Innovation Hub (iHub) for her entire team this past December.

MULE is part of the Core Avionics Engineering division and provides core avionics engineering, independent verification and validation testing, software support, and sustainment support to program offices for mission computers, navigation systems, communications systems, networks, and other core avionics.

The team began with a basic design project, and Mayris Rios, an engineering and architecture student trainee with the lab, was excited to begin and saw clearly the application to her daily work.

“I’ve always had a passion for digital 3D modeling,” she began. “A limitation is that you are often restricted to a flat 2D display. Being able to print my designs allows for additional perspectives in testing environments. The 3D printing session also demonstrated to me how alternative solutions to complex problems can be pursued, such as the mass printing of a tool that would otherwise be too expensive to acquire via third party vendors.”

According to Johnson, the team’s first project will be to print the faceplates of various avionics boxes to see the location of connector holes and where more could possibly be added as the boxes grow and change in capabilities. Eventually, the team will also be able to print examples of avionics components they cannot manufacture to use when seeking bids.

“For me the best part of having our team building event at the iHub was how accommodating the staff was,” Johnson said. “Our team came from a wide variety of backgrounds, and the iHub team was able to work with each person at his or her own level. Everyone had a great time and learned a lot, and for many, this activity took the mystery out of 3D printing.”

Since it’s opening in August 2018, there have been more than 250 workshops, technical interchanges, 3D classes and printing, brainstorming or training sessions, etc. held in the iHub, and more than 50 projects that have been printed to save time for the inventor or to help in meeting fleet needs.

To reserve any of the iHub spaces, visit the NAWCmADe SharePoint site:

To register for 3D printing classes (Several skills levels are available.), visit NAVAIRU: The basic course is “CISL-IDS-0101 Introduction to 3D Printing.”