In the twelve years since the REF initially deployed in November 2002, its method of providing technical assistance to Soldiers has evolved. Originally, the REF established a fixed laboratory workshop capability in 2004 to provide rapid engineering solutions to the growing number of capability gaps presented by Soldiers. These workshops were located on large Forward Operating Bases; as such the personnel manning the two laboratories were faced with a constraint - to get the relevant feedback from troops who were tactically engaged every day, the scientists spent a lot of time travelling to talk to Soldiers. This resulted in lost time engineering the required fixes for Soldier requirements. The REF recognized the issue and took bold and innovative steps to solve it.
In order to provide an engineering capability at remote bases, in 2012 the REF deployed two Expeditionary Labs and sent them directly to the tactical edge. This revolutionary solution gave Soldiers immediate access to expert scientists and engineers, allowing them to discuss their operational problems and have the Ex Lab staff quickly fabricate custom-made solutions on site. The Ex Lab is an easily-deployable, custom manufacturing shop equipped with state of the art equipment such as 3D printers, Computer Numerical Control Machines, and fabrication tools. In the past two years, the Ex Labs have provided custom engineering for hundreds of projects provided directly by Soldiers.
Moving forward, as the Army draws down in Afghanistan, these labs will be available to deploy anywhere in the world in support of combat and peacetime operations.
Ex Labs Include:
- Global Communications Suite
- Computer Numerical Control Machine
- 3D Printer
- Fabrication Tools
- Wire-fed Welder
- Plasma Cutter
- Data Processing and Numerical Simulation
- Various Hand Tools
- Prepositioned Raw Material