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Joint Base Andrews News

NEWS | Dec. 18, 2023

Master the art of 3D printing: Spark X Cell starts new course

By Airman 1st Class Martha Moore | 316th Wing Public Affairs

Spark X Cell, an innovation laboratory at Andrews, provides services to the installation such as 3D printing, laser engraving, and software and web development. U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chad Bohr, a Spark X Cell innovator, taught during the base’s first Spark X-hosted 3D printing class, Dec. 1. 

“My entire role is to make sure we’re empowering airmen to help create solutions to the problems in their work areas,” said Bohr. “Being able to say bring in an item that was no longer made, but we have somebody here that can design that. Or hey, we’ve got a website. It doesn’t do this; can we make something like that? We encourage them to do that here.” 

The class provided a detailed step-by-step lesson on how to operate the printer. The facility has printers of various sizes that print different types of materials to create desired items.  

For U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matt Hettwer, U.S. Air Force Premier Band trombonist, an electric trombone was the idea he wanted to bring to life with Spark X’s help. Previously, he was on the step that involved a midi-controller for his instrument. He went to the Spark X Cell after hearing about their program from a wingman, and the class provided skills for Hettwer to use while brainstorming for additions to his project. 

“I’m not super well versed in 3D printing yet, so this is a great crash course for me to kind of see firsthand their printers and some of the software involved,” said Hettwer.  

The course is projected to be available at least once a month depending on attendance according to U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jakob Miller, Spark X Cell superintendent. 

“Currently the class is open to all Active, Guard, and Reserve military members and military civilian personnel. There are no rank or AFSC/MOS requirements, just a drive to learn a new skill and be the next great military innovator,” said Miller.  

The Spark X Cell makes it possible for Airmen to turn designs or ideas that can improve their work centers into reality. The class attendees learned that they could also encourage their colleagues to think of innovative ways to make their jobs more efficient. 

“This class is a steppingstone for Airmen to help bring their skills in technology to life through a physical product that can have operational impacts,” said Miller. “While not all units have 3D printing capabilities yet, class attendees will now have a better understanding when they utilize these services at Spark X or one of the many other Spark Cells across the Air Force. Airman using these tools can help solve problems in their unit and the Air Force, showing dedication to the mission outside of their daily work.”