ROCK ISLAND, Ill. -- A new system integration facility has opened at Rock Island Arsenal that will help to provide quick turn-around prototyping for the delivery of experimental battlefield maintenance systems.

The first system now being fabricated at the integration facility is the Rapid Fabrication via Additive Manufacturing on the Battlefield, or R-FAB.

The system is a high priority Army program that puts part-making in the hands of Soldiers, significantly increasing unit readiness. Additive manufacturing is also known as 3-D printing.

The integration facility is a partnership between the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, and the TACOM Rock Island Arsenal-Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, or RIA-JMTC.

ARDEC, with headquarters at Picatinny Arsenal, is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM).

The integration facility is formally named the ARDEC Battlefield Tools and Equipment Integration Facility, and was announced by ARDEC’s Battlefield Tools and Equipment Division (BTED). A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Nov. 1.

“This partnership will enable a closer pairing of engineering development and the organic industrial base,” said Vernon Vondera, Competency Manager of the ARDEC BTED.

Col. Kenneth Letcher, Commander of the RIA-JMTC, expressed support for the new facility and partnership. “We must continue to advance materiel solutions, building on our history of 155 years of metal manufacturing and continue that in the future, and that future is honestly hand-in-hand with ARDEC,” he said.

Anthony Sebasto, Executive Director of the ARDEC Enterprise & Systems Integration Center, thanked Letcher for helping to establish this partnership and allowing ARDEC the work space to enhance ARDEC’s engineering capability and capacity.

“This new facility enhances ARDEC’s life-cycle engineering responsibility for SKOT (Sets, Kits, Outfits, and Tools) solutions like R-FAB and will help enable smooth transition of integrated prototype solutions to the industrial base,” Sebasto said.
 
At more than 3,000 square feet, the new integration facility provides an ideal location for BTED to integrate specialties from across ARDEC, such as Additive Manufacturing—an ARDEC Munitions Engineering & Technology Center expertise—into a prototype system ready for experimentation during various Army exercises.

The new integration facility supports BTED’s engineering mission to design and develop sets, kits, outfits, and tools, including mobile expeditionary additive manufacturing systems, in support of our nation’s warfighters.

BTED does this by performing life-cycle engineering, including coordination of requirements, design, development, integration of equipment, test and evaluation, as well as support in production, support to the field, modifications, development and preparation of technical and packaging data, and value engineering activities.

The first R-FAB system in fabrication at the integration facility is Version 2.0 for the Joint Warfighter Assessment 18, to be demonstrated in Germany in May 2018.

R-FAB is an expeditionary additive manufacturing system with the needed hardware and software to produce temporary parts and tools for Brigade Support Battalions, Sustainment Supply Activities, and other special missions using additive manufacturing technologies and processes.

The system focuses on low safety risk, high payoff parts with an emphasis on improving weapon system readiness. Some of the initial focus has been on Unmanned Aerial Systems/Unmanned Ground Vehicles repair parts, joint service parts, tools, and low volume parts.

These part files are housed in a software database that allows the soldiers to print parts from existing files. Soldiers can also reach back to the engineering community to assist with unique or custom requirements.

Previous versions of R-FAB successfully completed the Army Warfighter Assessment 17 and Pacific Pathways 17-3. The R-FAB 2.0 will incorporate lessons learned from Pacific Pathways, and an expanded parts database to further enhance readiness.

This capability will transition to the field in the Metal Working Machine Shop Set (MWMSS), since a decision was recently made to include additive manufacturing in this system.

The MWMSS is managed by Product Manager Sets, Kits, Outfits, and Tools (PdM-SKOT) and is being produced at RIA-JMTC. 
On hand to christen the new integration facility were representatives from ARDEC, the Rock Island Arsenal-Joint Manufacturing Technology Center (RIA-JMTC), and Product Manager SKOT.