An airman holds a hot cup inside a KC-10 Extender at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., June 21. The Air Force says it can 3-D print replacement handles for 50 cents, which will keep it from having to shell out $1,280 for a replacement cup. But Sen. Chuck Grassley is still wondering why these water heaters are so necessary if they are going to cost that much. (Tech. Sgt. James HodgmanAir Force)
That $1280 represents replacement costs because the maker has to retool for a small production. The original cost was a paltry $700.
The Air Force, under fire for throwing down $1,280 apiece to replace in-flight reheating cups after their handles break, is pledging to use 3-D printing to get that replacement cost down to 50 cents.
But Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is still wondering why these pricey water heaters are necessary in the first place, and plans to keep pushing the Air Force to find cheaper ways to warm up their coffee.
In an Oct. 2 letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Grassley said that 25 replacement cups, each costing roughly $1,280 each, have been bought this year alone, for a total of roughly $32,000. The 60th Aerial Port Squadron at Travis Air Force Base in California spent nearly $56,000 to replace broken cups over the past three years.
Wilson said that in July, she ordered a new Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office to be created to find ways to develop and deliver parts at a fraction of the cost of traditional manufacturing methods. This office has recently shown it can 3-D print replacement handles for the reheating cup for about 50 cents each.
So they're going to 3-D print the new handles. If the coffee cup costs $700/$1300, how much is the 3-D printer going to cost?
And how many people work for the Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office? What are their salaries? Have they shown a profit? I suspect not.
I'd like to point out that the US Navy had this very issue with the coffee makers in their P-3 Orion, each of which costs around $30,000 ims. Sure, it could make a perfect pot of coffee in an inverted negative 6 G dive, but is having coffee really worth that much? One might argue that a typical P-3 mission can be 5 to 10 hours and even airborne sailors really, really need their coffee. So a compromise was made: If you want coffee, bring one of these: