ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (July 26, 2021) — Soldiers are helping military and law enforcement bomb squad technicians build mission and training tools faster and cheaper.
The Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center – a component of the Army Futures Command’s Combat Capabilities Development Command – hosted the three-day workshop June 14-17, specifically for explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technicians.
“Three dimensional printing allows bomb techs to develop tools to fit their mission, fit the threat, and also allows them to make cheap, inexpensive training aids,” said Gary Ledder, asymmetric projects lead with the Center’s Replication Evaluation & Mitigation (REM) Threat Laboratory and event coordinator.
The first-time event, a partnership between the C5ISR Center’s Exploitation Analysis & Response Division, REM branch and the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology First Responders Group, focused on small, desktop 3D printers. Both beginner and seasoned attendees came from around the country to share knowledge through presentations and comradery.
“The bomb squad community is very small and a fairly elite group of people,” Ledder said.
Military EOD technicians receive training at a joint service school Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, while law enforcement trains through DHS in Huntsville, Alabama. The workshop is a knowledge sharing event that brings together members of different government agencies, he added.
“This is beginning to get people fired up because I think [3D printers] have an extremely good use in the field,” said Sgt. Pat Brady of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, whose conversation with DHS Response and Defeat Operations Support (REDOPS) team members sparked the conference. “You can build any kind of tool you can think of.”
Sgt. First Class Benjamin Summerfield has used 3D printing to do just that - creating a training solution that could help save lives.
“I like to make 3D-printed landmines that have an actual functioning penalty inside so it can let you know if you’ve stepped on it or not,” he said. “A wireless signal is sent to an external box so you could hear when you step on the mine.”
Summerfield who is from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, said his device makes training more engaging and more realistic, thereby providing a better overall training experience.
“For a landmine, some people will put down a rubber duck and someone may come near it or step near it and they’ll say ‘all right, you set the land mine off,’ when in reality sometimes you can step right on [a land mine] and not set it off based on the way your foot is or the environment,” he said.
Printers can produce an array of training aids, shape charges, tools, and fixes for EOD at a lower cost than traditional devices, taking the cost of a search mirror or a water bottle charge from hundreds of dollars to under $50. This cost savings is an important factor for many users, particularly law enforcement who often work with smaller budgets than their military counterparts.
While the workshop was designed to evaluate the factors involved with starting and maintaining a 3-D printing program, Brady hopes the workshop will also serve as an access point for great ideas for EOD 3D printing.
“I hope people can get out of this some ideas for where we can put this stuff, where we can have a community to talk about it, share ideas,” he said.
The C5ISR Center is the Army’s applied research and advanced technology development center for C5ISR capabilities. As the Army’s primary integrator of C5ISR technologies and systems, the center develops and matures capabilities that support all six Army modernization priorities, enabling information dominance and tactical overmatch for the joint warfighter.
The C5ISR Center is an element of U.S. Army DEVCOM. Through collaboration across the command’s core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation’s wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is an AFC major subordinate command.