Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

DON Innovation Seed Funding EXMAN
Share on:



Seed Funding Success: Marine Corps Expeditionary Manufacturing (EXMAN)

By DON Innovation
Published: 9 Jan 2018


170831-M-YG378-103 CAMP PENDLETON, CA - Gunnery Sgt. Travis Arndt, a machinist with 1st Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group, explains the 3-D printing capabilities to Richard V. Spencer, the Secretary of the Navy, on Camp Pendleton, Calif., August 30, 2017. Spencer previously served as a Marine Aviator for five years flying a CH-46 Sea Knight transport helicopter. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Dublinske)

In early 2016, the Office of Strategy and Innovation (S&I) was approached by 1st Marine Logistics Group, 1st Maintenance Battalion’s Marine Corps Expeditionary Manufacturing (EXMAN) for seed funding for its Mobile Test Bed Initiative. The objective was to design, build, and test an Advanced Manufacturing (i.e. additive manufacturing / 3D printing and subtractive manufacturing / CNC milling or lathing) facility that would perform under actual operational conditions, and would be tested during the Marine Corps’ annual Exercise Steel Knight (SK-17). Original funding for the Concept Initiation Phase had been sponsored by Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) Headquarters, and now seed funding was needed to build a prototype for 1st Maintenance Battalion at Camp Pendleton in time to support the exercise.

Put simply, EXMAN is a deployable 3D Printing studio in a mobile containerized shelter which can be used anywhere in the world, supporting the immediate needs of the Marines on the ground during operations or combat. 3D printing has been around for a couple of decades. However, the Marine Corps’ objective was to make it mobile so that during an operation, whenever key parts break down, replacement parts could be fabricated on the spot, thereby eliminating well-known supply line hurdles.

For the Concept Initiation Phase, the Marines’ requested seed funding to create a mobile facility with an Advanced Manufacturing Ecosystem, and which would be equipped with end use components, Computer-Aided Design (CAD) files, and technical data packages developed by the EXMAN team. After hearing the Marines’ pitch, S&I gave them $250,000. Within short order, the EXMAN prototype mobile facility was designed and built to support the continuous experimentation, technology adoption, and risk reduction of advanced manufacturing tactics, techniques, and procedures under actual operational conditions. The mobile facility was outfitted with a comprehensive advanced manufacturing ecosystem that included a 3D printer, professional CAD software, professional Computer-Aided Manufacturing software, a 3D scanner, ruggedized laptops, and a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) mill/lathe.

For the next phase, Continuous Experimentation, SPAWAR HQ was both a sponsor and a partner, providing engineering expertise for the Marines.

During the Continuous Experimentation Phase, EXMAN was successfully deployed for Steel Knight. Steel Knight is an annual exercise led by the 1st Marine Division that spans the western United States and California coast. Focusing on ground fires, maneuver warfare tactics and command and control capabilities, this exercise tests Marines and Sailors across a range of environments and against a thinking, opposing force (the 1st Marine Division is the Marine Corps' largest, most capable and most lethal combat force in readiness).

171017-M-YG378-104 CAMP PENDLETON, CA - U.S. Marines with 1st Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group, display the different production steps of a vaneaxial impeller fan at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 17, 2017. The original wait time and cost of the fan from the manufacturer is 36 months. With the 3D printing process, the wait time is reduced to 14 days. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Sorci)

During the exercise, the team was able to use the advanced manufacturing equipment of EXMAN to fix more than 30 high priority end items. EXMAN demonstrated that it can effectively provide:

• Timely restorations of critical materiel requirements
• Availability of long-lead time parts
• Materiel solutions for obsolete or unprocurable parts
• Decentralized manufacturing to aid in product improvements
• Increased readiness and decreased reliance

Following a great deal of visibility at the Ship-to-Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (S2ME2 ANTX) in April 2017, the EXMAN team collaborated with 1st Tank Battalion to successfully install a "printed" metal impeller fan in an M1A1 Main Battle tank. This success was a joint effort between the Marines, SPAWAR, and commercial industry. Following successful initial testing, the tank ran the impeller fan for 45 hours / 288 miles during Exercise Steel Knight 18 (SK-18) in December 2017, racking up a total of 61 hours and 358 miles to date with no leakage or abnormal wear. The purpose of the impeller fan is to remove debris from the air-filter of the M1-Abrams tank and, after a field test, the impeller fan met the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) specifications. The OEM fan has a current customer wait time (CWT) of up to 581 days. With the 3D printing process, the CWT could be reduced to as little as 4 days. This "printed" part is one of the first metal 3D printed ground vehicle parts to be successfully field tested in the Marine Corps.

Moving From Seed Funding to a Program of Record

After receiving seed funding from SPAWAR HQ and S&I, it was clear that EXMAN’s successes exceeded even its initial objectives. Throughout the Continuation Experimentation Phase, EXMAN was able to demonstrate how the DOD could keep pace with technological advancements in materials and manufacturing methods. It also demonstrated how, even in a battlefield, the services could employ innovative supply chain and maintenance sustainment solutions to meet rapidly changing technology environments.

And now, the work of EXMAN has matured sufficiently to validate the establishment of a deliberate Program of Record for Additive Manufacturing within deployed maintenance operations. A Program Objective Memorandum initiative has been proposed that would field this capability across the Marine Corps. Deputy Commandant, Installations and Logistics (I&L) NexLog office will provide interim funding to the program office until such time as procurement investment is possible.

Next Stages

Currently, the EXMAN team is engaged in the Concept Optimization Phase of the effort based on the outcomes of the Continuation Experimentation Phase. The results of this phase will feed into the U.S. Marine Corps’ Additive Manufacturing Concept of Employment (AM CONEMPS).

For the future, the EXMAN project has broad implications for Marines and Sailors by providing an immense amount of capability at the point of need. While EXMAN had a ground focus of providing an expeditionary capability, the same form factor could be utilized as an embarkable capability for the fleet. Foreseeably, EXMAN-like nodes could be connected not to just DOD nodes, but to original equipment manufacturers, which would create a smart manufacturing grid that would be able to respond to dynamic needs across a host of contested and uncontested environments.

For more information on the Marine Corps Expeditionary Manufacturing (EXMAN) Project:


Shaping The Future of 3-D Printing
Published on Nov 27, 2017
By Cpl. Kyle McNan, 1st Marine Logistics Group

3D Printing: The Future Of Warfare?
Published on Jun 09, 2017
By Rebecca Ricks, Forces Network

Expeditionary Manufacturing Mobile Test Bed (EXMAN)
Published on May 03, 2016
By Maria Kelly Murphy, Office of Strategy and Innovation


Marines operate first combat vehicle with 3D print metal parts
Published on Nov 15, 2017
(U.S Marine Corps Video by Lance Cpl. Adam Dublinske)
U.S. Marines with 1st Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group, 3-D printed a metal impeller fan for an Assault Breaching Vehicle. The part is the culmination of a process to be able to replace broken or worn out parts of a vehicle with items that are 3-D printed.

3D Printing: The Future Of Warfare? | Forces TV
Published on Sep 7, 2017
3D printing's been around since the 90s, but its new-found popularity means it's being used more often in homes and, maybe soon, on the battlefield. On the West Coast of America however, the 1st Maintenance Battalion of the US Marines were tasked with experimenting with the technology to see how it might be used by the military.

Published on May 04, 2017
(U.S. Navy Video by Aaron Lebsack, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific)
The Navy and Marine Corps team officially wrapped up the Ship-to-Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation (S2ME2) Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2017 (ANTX17) this month at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. Marines and Sailors field-tested more than 50 new technologies, everything from swarming unmanned surface vessels to self-driving Amtracs. The resulting force of these technological capabilities will integrate operations across all domains to include information and cyberspace. Academia, Scientists, Military Warfighter Laboratories and Commercial Industry spent the past two weeks testing and evaluating their technologies alongside the warfighter.

SoCal Ship-to-Shore Exercise: The Amazing Ex-Man
Published on Apr 26, 2017
(U.S. Marine Corps Video by Lance Cpl. Jocelyn Ontiveros, 1st Marine Logistics Group)
Marines with Reparable Maintenance Company, 1st Maintenance Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, demonstrate the capabilities of 3-D printing Expeditionary Manufacturing during the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 19-28, 2017. 3-D printing technology allows the timely restoration of critical gear and increased readiness by augmenting the supply chain.

Steel Knight: The Ex-Man Returns
Published on Dec 09, 2016
(U.S. Marine Corps Video by Sgt. Abbey Perria, 1st Marine Logistics Group)
U.S. Marines with Reparable Maintenance Company, 1st Maintenance Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, 3-D print a mounting bracket for a Logistics Vehicle System Replacement during exercise Steel Knight at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Dec. 6, 2016. Steel Knight 2017 is a 1st Marine Division-led exercise that exposes Marines and Sailors to skill sets necessary to operate as a fully capable Marine air ground task force.

Published on Jul 20, 2016
Dr. Kristin Holzworth and Andrew Bonica of the Joint Advance Manufacturing Region discuss EXMAN and 3D printing.

The DON Innovation series “Seed Funding Success” highlights some of the successful implementations of seed funding within the Department of the Navy. While care is given to ensure that those projects with a highest probability of success are supported, not every project will have the same outcome. It is our privilege to tell the story of those projects that have had particularly positive results.

1000 Navy Pentagon
Washington, DC 20350

This is an official Department of the Navy website
Contact the Webmaster - Please read our Privacy Policy Notice - No FEAR Act - Section 508