DARPA, US Navy to Set Up Fab Lab at MARMC
DARPA and the US Navy recently agreed to locate a fabrication laboratory, or Fab Lab, at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC) in Norfolk, Virginia, under DARPA’s Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach Two (MENTOR2) program.
The goal of MENTOR2 is to reduce logistics supply chain costs and boost defense readiness by improving training and tools for operating, maintaining and adapting complex military equipment in low-tech environments—for example, repairing unmanned aerial vehicles in austere locations or fixing ship systems at sea. Some machine shops and fabrication capabilities exist aboard ships and in deployed areas, but these facilities provide only a fraction of the components needed for deployed operations—largely due to limited access to the adaptive manufacturing technology and comprehensive design expertise needed for in-theater fabrication. MENTOR2 aims to provide troops advanced tools and training, so they can rapidly design and fabricate needed components on the spot.
Fab Labs are design and fabrication shops outfitted with modern digital tools and equipment—such as laser cutters, routers, 3D printers, vinyl cutters for flexible circuit boards and digital design tools that use open-source software. DARPA is establishing the Navy’s customized Fab Lab through the Fab Foundation.
Navy leaders at MARMC said they foresee significant benefits from having modern training and tools on hand for ship maintenance and repair.
The Fab Lab installation and initial operation is expected in April.
Image: BAE Norfolk Systems Ship Repair