3D printers have become a creator’s magic wand. If they design it, the 3D printer will make it come to life in a matter of hours.Yuma Proving Ground’s (YPG) Electro-Optical Mechanical (EM) Lab has been using 3D printers for years to create custom parts. While the lab’s overall purpose is maintaining equipment for the Instrumentation and Optics Divisions they are also the go to place for modifying equipment.“When a piece of equipment arrives the EM Lab will check it out and we will make it field compatible. A lot of the COTS (commercial of the shelf) are not rated to handle our temperatures so we’ll take something apart and figure out how to add heat sinks or extra fans or whatever it takes to keep it cool,” explains EM Lab Supervisor Andrew Trujillo.Many times because of the nature of testing durable enclosures are needed to protect, batteries or cameras. Bob Bieser has been instrumental in creating those pieces. He’s worked closely with the Airborne Test Force in the Air Delivery Systems Branch, he recently created an enclosure for a GoPro camera, “It slides in the case and they clamp this on the webbing of the parachute so the camera looks down at the load or up at the parachute. They needed something for a different perspective.”He’s also created items for moving parts inside the vehicle, “They needed something to hold an encoder to measure the rotation of the turret so we built the whole enclosure in about 12 hours.” He explains, “I climbed inside the vehicle and took some dimension and modeled it up and printed it…it was a huge time saver.”Optical Engineer and Quality Assurance Evaluator for the EM Lab, Steve Taylor agrees, “We can create a prototype. We don’t have to have anyone else do it, we can do it here at YPG” adding, “The turnaround could be 24 hours. If the part broke we would just go into our CAD files and reprint.”Plus, the 3D printers can work after hours and on weekends without supervision. Another benefit YPG has seen is the printers have allowed the proving ground to continue using legacy items,“YPG continues to work with the legacy systems that we know work. It’s hard to get the parts and sometimes the gears or other parts, once one of the techs or engineers draws it up, we can just reproduce it using the 3D printer. We have done that with items because there is no way to get them. It’s been pretty handy.”Bieser adds, “It just never ends, there are all kinds of little widgets that they will always need.”3D printers have the capability to print with different materials. The printers YPG currently owns uses ABS and PLA thermoplastics which Taylor describes as a “limiting factor.”The recently purchased Stratsys F170 printer can print different materials including a rubberized material (TPU 92A) which opens up the possibilities...they will not be limited to rigid items.“We will be looking at making gasket and items that can flex a little bit” explains Taylor.The EM Lab team have helped tests stay on track, they have designed one of a kind items to meet the test’s needs.“The customer will come in with the test officer” because they heard about the EM Lab “Sometimes it’s something small and there is no other way to fix it.” says Taylor.The EM Lab team is looking forward to the newest printer and looking ahead hopes YPG will purchase a 3D printer that can print metal which will complete the triad.