EOD uses 3-D printer to enhance training

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Daniel Brosam
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
The 341st Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal flight recently acquired a 3-D printer capable of printing training aids to enhance the effectiveness of the unit.

According to Capt. Daniel Blomberg, 341st CES EOD flight commander, the printer allows the flight to create inexpensive and disposable plastic prints that better prepare the team leaders for real-world operations.

“Prior to this printer, we had an extremely limited number of expensive training aids so we had to remove the aids prior to a render safe operation,” Blomberg said.

In a real-world scenario, a render safe operation is used to deplete the chance of an unexploded ordnance from detonating and causing injury to bystanders by shooting a steel slug through the fuse, essentially rendering the explosive useless.

“With the new printer, we are able to use extremely accurate and replaceable fuses and ordnance training aids all the way through a render safe operation,” Blomberg said.

With the 3-D printer, EOD does not have to worry about destroying a $100 training aid. Instead, the printer can create a new one for less than $5.

One of the Air Force’s top priorities is modernization – consistently innovating and improving technologies to optimize the effectiveness of limited available resources to better combat adversaries. Blomberg and his team took the initiative to save money and increase their training potential.

“This type of innovation is the type of small steps which can have far reaching impacts,” Blomberg said. “This 3-D printer is an investment that allows the EOD flight to improve its training right now and in the longer term quickly field tools and replacement parts.”

The printing process for one or two parts of a training aid can range from two to 13 hours. However, the printer has the potential to save hundreds to thousands of dollars and keep Malmstrom’s EOD flight trained and prepared for anything that might come their way.

“In addition to the tangible benefits of the printer in terms of printing training aids and tools, I believe (having the printer) also demonstrates the commitment of leadership to support innovation at the tactical level,” Blomberg said. “Our leadership allowed the EOD flight to invest money into equipment (to improve the training) for our operators.”

Tech. Sgt. Paul Willson, 341st CES EOD NCO in charge of quality assurance, said he feels it is important for EOD as a career field, and even broader as a military, to continue to find new ways to stay ahead in the battlefield.

“Previous generations of war fighters have suffered dramatically for failing to adapt and incorporate changing technology,” Willson said. “Being on the leading edge of technology saves lives and makes us a more effective fighting force.”