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NEWS | April 11, 2023

437th AMXS Airman enhances capabilities through 3D print designs

By Airman 1st Class Christian Silvera Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Innovation is more than a buzzword; it is the duty of all Airmen to revolutionize existing capabilities and processes in an effort to reduce wasted resources and enhance the mission of the U.S. Air Force.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Conway, 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, is a catalyst for revolutionizing Team Charleston’s abilities by turning his concepts into reality through 3D printing.

Conway has creatively solved issues around base with his designs, helping to improve unit effectiveness since becoming an intern at the Palmetto Innovation Spark Lab.

“I designed an adjustment to a pressure sensor for the 628th Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight,” Conway said. “The sensors that check the air pressure inside the hangars were not reading correctly, so they asked me to make a shroud. I took their sensor and scanned it. Then I made some manipulations, and it was able to read the air pressure properly.”

In addition to innovating multiple resources on base, Conway’s designs are cost-effective and mitigate manpower waste.

“I also made ammunition speedloaders for Combat Arms Training and Maintenance and saved them about 200 man hours annually,” Conway said. “It’s also cost-effective as each one I make is 0.5% of what it would cost to buy commercially.”

Conway is most proud of a design he constructed for the racquetball courts at the base fitness center.

“A locksmith couldn’t get the proper parts to lock the doors,” Conway said. “So he brought in a damaged lock and I scanned it, repaired it digitally, and made a new one out of carbon fiber to prevent damage.”

Conway has also produced designs of avionic alignment tools, which have been approved by Boeing, and are now in tool boxes across the flight line.

“He has exceeded our expectations, and the impact he’s had on so many base agencies and both wings has been phenomenal,” said Capt. Daniel Weisz, deputy director of Palmetto Spark Innovation. “He’s our first intern we’ve had, so he’s already setting a high standard.”

As for how 3D printing fits into the future of the Air Force, Conway believes it's something every base should capitalize on.

“We can change materials, make our own tools on the fly, and fill the gaps from older manufacturers,” Conway said. “I think every base should have access to a 3D printer.”

Conway hopes the impact he makes inspires people to want to learn about 3D printing and utilize the Palmetto Spark Lab.

“It’s an untapped resource and so easy to get into,” Conway said. “We have a room to accommodate people who want to learn. We run a class every quarter, and we give people one-on-one training.”

In his ‘Innovation Letter to Airmen,’ Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., Chief of Staff of the Air Force, stated “Airmen must accelerate change through innovation.”

“To succeed, we must properly identify problems, empower decentralized solutions by individuals and teams, and infuse an ethos of innovation at all levels,” Brown said. “Innovation depends on both creative individuals and support organizations to turn concepts into reality.”