Weary of breaking steering wheels on vehicles when they had to replace steering wheel columns, a cadre of Marines came up with an idea to at least simplify the difficult process somewhat. They developed a process to 3D print parts that frequently break during the replacement process.
The problem frequently arises when maintenance teams have to replace steering columns on medium tactical vehicles. The heavy slide-hammer they must use easily can break a wheel or a column, taking the vehicle out of operation for as many as 25 days while they wait for a replacement part.
“I was a young corporal working on trucks, and I was tired of getting chewed out for breaking the wheel,” said Staff Sgt. Kyle Owens, a motor transportation chief with 1st Marine Logistics Group. “I was bored at lunch with my buddy one day and we just started brainstorming a better way we could get the steering wheel off without breaking it every time.”
The idea ultimately led to a collaborative effort between Owens’ unit and the Marine Corps System Command’s Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell (AMOC), to develop a metal steering-wheel removal device that could be produced using a 3-D printer.
Owens used scrap metal and washers he found at the motor pool where he worked to develop the prototype. He and Cpl. Aiden Bemis, a digital manufacturing engineer with his unit, came up with the design and printed polymer versions of the tool. Once they were satisfied the polymer versions would fit and work properly, they printed metal versions that could be used. Ultimately, they got approval from both AMOC and industry partners to move forward with the project and add the printed part to the inventory. The efforts earned Owens an Operational Agility Team award.