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mobile welding shop, we were able to change almost as fast as the enemy. Te Intelli-MAX Soſtware Suite on the Omax machine automates most of the programming and tool setup work, which made it extremely easy for my guys to use. Tey literally could have a prototype done within hours.”


The Hook Brings You Back A simple but important example of tools conceived to over-


come uncommon threats were devices called grappling hooks. Troops dragged the ground with the hooks to find trip wires for improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Unit commanders developed ideas for the best hook configurations to overcome certain types of IED, and the Omax waterjet cut the hooks on site. “Infantry and operators safely find the trip wires without losing their legs,” Tompson said.


square stock. Materials were mainly steel plate and aluminum, but the shop also machined 2000 titanium washers for a V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraſt. Waterjet performance on titanium, Tompson said, was “awesome, better than trying to mill it. Te only problem with the washers was that they were so small we would lose them down in the tank.”


Learning on the Job In general, achieving quick response limits the amount of


time available to get a job done. As troops rotated in and out of the war zone, time for training in machine operation was minimal or nonexistent. Gunnery Sergeant Anthony Lashley followed Tompson in command of the welding and fabrica- tion unit at Camp Leatherneck. Although he was very familiar with manual and CNC lathes and mills, Lashley had no prior


The idea was to “provide as much flexibility as possible in machining and fabrication to give combat commanders more options.”


An ongoing project involved reinforcement of the frames


of heavy-duty M870 trailers. Over 40' (12-m) long and capable of handling a 40-ton (36.3-t) payload, the trailers provided crucial mobility for equipment and supplies. However, they were designed for highway use and, Tompson said, “Te terrain was so bad in Afghanistan, and it was destroying parts of the trailers. We had to essentially invent a way to reinforce the I-beams.” Without the use of waterjet technology, the project would have involved plasma-cutting reinforcement plates from stock then finish-grinding them before they were welded between the webs of the beams—a process that would have been extremely time- and cost-consuming. Te cutting, grinding and welding could have taken two to three days. Use of the waterjet eliminated several steps in the finish- ing process, saving significant time and money. Te waterjet machine could cut four plates in an hour and a half, then the plates were welded onto the trailer with no further finishing. Downtime was greatly reduced and “We didn’t have to replace the trailers and were able to continue to move stuff around in a very kinetic environment,” Tompson said. For some projects, waterjet cutting was the only truly vi-


able option. For an upgrade of the MTVR (Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement) all-wheel-drive all-terrain vehicle, the shop processed approximately 300 armor plates, for the most part, cutting holes for cables. “Armor plating by its nature is very tough. We wouldn’t have been able to cut it on our CNC mill,” Tompson said. To have the heavy plates manufactured in the United States and shipped to Afghanistan would have been unreasonably slow and expensive. Te waterjet machine typically handled workpieces up to 3/8" (9.5-mm) thick, but some parts were cut from 2" (51-mm)


experience with waterjet machining. “I had no official train- ing, and had a lot of reservations about it,” he said. However, he “learned on the job, in just a few days.” Regarding program- ming, he said, “In a week, I had it down. I found it to be one of the easier machines to use. You don’t have to put in any code. Once you get the dimensions, what you draw is what it is go- ing to be cut.” According to Thompson, the isolation of the combat


zone presented a challenge like no other. “Afghanistan is far away from everything. I think the only place farther we could have gone is the moon. You can’t just order some- thing on Amazon and it shows up. It must go through some pretty unstable places, and there is no infrastructure. The only thing I think we could have done better when introducing the waterjet was prepping for the supplies for the machine, such as repair parts and the like.” However, he said, “When we did have a problem with the machine, Omax flew a guy over.” Although the service technician’s trip to the base was difficult, Thompson said, “He was still a pro once he arrived. In 10 days, the technician taught the person running the machine more than he probably learned the entire time before.” As part of the drawdown, the mobile machine was sent


back to the United States where it continues its active duty at the Marines’ Camp Pendleton. Tompson concluded say- ing that “right until the time Lashley and his guys boxed the machine up and sent it home from Afghanistan that thing was running and making us parts fast.” ✈


Article edited by Yearbook Editor Michael Anderson from information provided by Omax Corp.


Aerospace & Defense Manufacturing 2013 65


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