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Pendleton Marines' new weapon: 3-D printing

Camp Pendleton Marines have a new weapon - 3-D printing.

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Camp Pendleton Marines have a new weapon - 3-D printing.

The ingenuity of 3-D printing, which was invented more than three decades ago, has in recent years created prototype parts for everything from car manufacturing to movie props.

Recently, it promises to play a groundbreaking role for the U.S. Military.

"There are a lot of different ways the Marine Corps could use a 3-D printer and the software to save money and time," said Cpl. Samuel Stonestreet.

Though still in the testing phase, it is now being integrated into Marine Expeditionary Force Operations at Camp Pendleton.

"The expeditionary manufacturing facility is capable of taking a broken item, generating a 3-D scan into a computer animated design, and sending that to a 3-D printer to print out a replica part," said Lt. Col. Gregory Pace.

In some cases the components are plastic, therefore, the 3-D version could potentially be directly used as a replacement part.

For metal components, the 3-D printout can be used as a prototype to help guide mechanics on base to quickly and accurately fabricate the part.

Under conventional methods, it can take weeks or even months to manufacture and deliver critical replacement components for military gear.

"If we can reduce a 100-day lead time down to one day because we have the capacity to print the replacement part, I think we are doing a significant increase to MEF readiness," said Lt. Col. Gregory Pace.

A spokesman for Camp Pendleton said the initial testing carried out so far with 3-D printing technology has proven successful.

If further trials determine it is effective and cost-efficient, it could be integrated into the Marine Corp's day-to-day operations.

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