East Sussex soldier nominated for prestigious engineering award

A soldier from Seaford has been nominated for a prestigious engineering award in recognition of his “stunning innovation” in the use of 3D printing by the Army.

Sergeant Craig Durrant, a Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineering soldier serving with Colchester-based 216 (Parachute) Signal Squadron, is in the running for the Joint Professional Engineering Institutions’ Churchill Medal. The award is given to an individual or small team for engineering and technical advancement in support of military operations and readiness.

Sgt Durrant, 32, has pioneered the use of 3D printing within 16 Air Assault Brigade, the British Army’s airborne rapid reaction force. The technology enables troops to manufacture components while deployed on operations, reducing the amount of spare parts that would need to be transported, making for a lighter and more agile force.

Alongside his day job running 216 (Para) Sig Sqn’s vehicle workshop, Sgt Durrant has used 3D printing and his wider design and engineering skills to fit out a customised tactical headquarters vehicle. It features multiple radio systems, head up displays, rotating seats and beverage facilities, even down to folding cup holders of Sgt Durrant’s design.

He said: “The commander’s vehicle has been used on exercises in the UK and abroad and all the little modifications we designed and manufactured have proved their worth. We took the printer to a big multinational exercise in Croatia to test the concept, making everything from vehicle components and a water bottle lid to 3D terrain maps used by commanders to plan and execute missions.

Sgt Durrant, a vehicle mechanic by trade, finds out if he has won at an awards ceremony in London on Wednesday (Oct 30).

“I hadn’t heard of the award when I was told I’d been nominated had to research it,” he said. “It’s humbling to think that our experiments with a 3D printer are seen in the same light as the inventors of the jet engine and hovercraft, who are previous winners. I think 3D printing is a really exciting technology and, as it develops, it’ll be interesting to see what we can do with it in the future.”

Sgt Durrant, a former pupil of Seaford Head School, has been in the Army since 2004. He is married to Emma and they have a six-year-old daughter Alysia.