US Marines Corps additively manufactures rocket headcap for mine-clearing missions

September 2, 2021

MCSC successfully developed and tested the additively manufactured headcap to support the Marine Corps’ mine-clearing missions (Courtesy US Marine Corps)

The United States Marine Corps has reported the use of Additive Manufacturing to produce a key component used in mine clearing operations. The Program Manager for Ammunition (PM Ammo) at Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) additively manufactured a headcap for a rocket motor used to detonate an M58 Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC). The MICLIC is a rocket-projected explosive line charge that provides a demining capability for marines.

“The process of 3D printing allows marines to create a physical object from a digital design,” stated CWO2 Justin Trejo, a Project Officer with PM Ammo at MCSC. “We essentially created a 3D-printed product and incorporated it into a highly explosive system.”

Marines use the MICLIC to clear paths through minefields and other obstacles on the battlefield. However, traditional manufacturing methods for creating the headcap can be both timely and costly, explained Trejo. MCSC wanted to identify a more efficient method for producing the part.

In 2019, PM Ammo began exploring alternative solutions for manufacturing the headcap. After many hours of research as well as developing and testing a prototype headcap, the team collaborated with Naval Surface Warfare Center Corona Division (NSWC Corona) to produce an additively manufactured version.

Earlier this year, NSWC Corona produced the stainless steel additively manufactured solution. PM Ammo representatives then assessed the AM product during a test event at Yuma Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona, USA. The evaluation involved launching the rocket motor to detonate the mine-clearing line charge and performed successfully.

“The rocket motor fired off just as intended and the line charge detonated as it is supposed to, which was a significant moment for us,” added Trejo. “In the future, we’d like to attempt to 3D print the headcap with its nozzles attached.”

He went on to stress the significance of the successful test event because it further confirmed the effectiveness of AM, a manufacturing technology that has been growing in popularity within the Department of Defense.

In 2019, MCSC established its Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell (AMOC) to serve as a 24/7 help desk for marines who need assistance with AM, and other sustainment and manufacturing solutions. The team of skilled marines and civilians has employed AM to develop everything from innovative maintenance tools to a reinforced concrete bridge.

Caleb Hughes, an engineer with MCSC’s PM Ammo who supported the Yuma testing event, said Additive Manufacturing saves the Marine Corps time and money. “The previous process of traditional manufacturing is outdated, while 3D printing is a more modern manufacturing technique,” stated Hughes. “I truly believe 3D printing is the next generation of the Marine Corps.”

Trejo believes AM aligns with Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger’s vision in that Additive Manufacturing helps increase marines’ battlefield efficiency. Trejo explained the manufacturing method enables the warfighter to be “lighter and faster,” critical attributes when supporting various missions.

“We’re able to create equipment parts and other assets for whatever particular mission we’re engaged in. This 3D-printed headcap represents the Marine Corps going above and beyond to support our marines,” concluded Trejo.

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