ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – The Charles C. Smith Conference Room was memorialized in a ceremony at Rock Island Arsenal – Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center June 30.
Family and friends gathered as Smith’s wife, Patricia Turner, two sisters, Sheila Smith and Catherine Wilson, and Col. Shari Bennett, RIA-JMTC commander, unveiled a plaque, with tears and smiles, to commemorate the room. Smith passed away peacefully on November 27, 2020 after a year-long illness.
The conference room is part of the Army’s Advanced and Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence, a division within RIA-JMTC. In 2018, the Army announced the designation of the COE at RIA-JMTC. In 2019, the center had all the basic equipment needed to 3D print and in 2021 became fully operation with trained personnel.
“Mr. Smith was a strong advocate for Rock Island Arsenal and knew our importance to the defense industrial base,” said Bennett. “Mr. Smith became a vocal advocate for the establishment of this new facility - the Center of Excellence for Advanced and Additive Manufacturing. In short- he saw 3D printing as a worthy financial investment for future innovation and as a force multiplier for the Army.”
The Center of Excellence is the Army's hub for collaboration with industry, academia and other Defense Department partners to implement additive manufacturing best-practices throughout the Army.
This began with the designation and $20 million in funding to stand up the Center of Excellence with equipment and renovations. Advanced manufacturing is the use of innovative technology to improve products or processes, which can include nanotechnology, robotics and additive manufacturing or 3D printing. Currently, the main focus of the COE is 3D printing.
Today, the facility houses more than 25 machines, using a variety of materials for 3D printing including plastic and various metals. The center has the ability to reverse engineer parts and cold spray, which is used to fabricate or repair metal parts, apply protective or corrosion-resistant coatings and join different metals together.
RIA-JMTC has produced a variety of items with additive manufacturing, including lens covers for sensors of military equipment, which allowed a military unit in Alaska to use the equipment without concern of damage to the lenses; to ventilator housing units in support of COVID efforts. The COE has partnered with many private industry manufacturers to print prototypes and collaborate on new ideas. The first Army additively manufactured product with a technical data package, which specifies the physical and functional characteristics of a manufactured item, was printed here: the M249 Spanner Wrench. This wrench is used by Soldiers to adjust the height of the front sights of an M249 light machine gun. This creates a viable part that Soldiers will one day be able to print in the field.
“We thank Mr. Smith for making all of this, and our future endeavors possible,” said Edward Flinn, director, Advanced Manufacturing, RIA-JMTC.
In addition to the COE, other initiatives supported by Smith include several Public-Private Partnerships that will help maintain and develop innovative programs at the Arsenal to move the island into the future. These partnerships are a cornerstone in relationships between private industry and government agencies and are designed to improve efficiency and effectiveness of a project through sharing resources.
“With this memorialization, we have the distinct honor to remember Charles Smith’s contributions to – and support of – our Army in a meaningful way, while ensuring those contributions will not be forgotten, but have paved the way for others to follow,” said Bennett.
Family and friends of Smith said they were honored and humbled by this display. They thanked Bennett and all the individuals who made the memorialization possible, including Illinois legislative staff who proposed the memorialization.
“Charlie truly was committed to service: public service and the military and then serving in government, but also service to his family and friends,” said Turner. “He just had this incredible gift of connecting with you and then once he connected you were in his heart forever. That was his gift and we all felt it and we all loved him for it. I think that’s one of the reasons we’re all here today, because he meant so much to everyone.”