Additive manufacturing is taking on an increasingly important role within the United States Navy. The American military has always been known for pushing boundaries and embracing new technology. The Navy’s approach to 3D printing is no different.
A major goal in any Navy operations is to improve efficiency and lower the financial impact of specific processes. 3D printing can assist the Navy in each of these aspects. Processes that took weeks and cost a lot of money are now being done within days for a fraction of the previous expense.
3D Printing Delivers Affordable Navy Ship Maintenance
An incident in August 2018 meant that the USS Chung-Hoon guided-missile destroyer was experiencing some issues with one of its hangar bay roller bolts. The bolt had become so stressed that it was close to breaking.
With damage to the bolt, Navy experts knew that it would not be possible to open and close the particular door. Moreover, it was not as simple as replacing one part, as the ship would need to order a new roller assembly to complete the repair process.
Fortunately, they had help close by. Another ship was in their vicinity, the USS John C. Stennis. Moreover, this ship was equipped with a 3D printer that was set up by the Naval Sea Systems Command. The Navy has been pushing an additive manufacturing initiative designed to help with the maintenance and repairability of ships and other equipment.
Printing Bolts for Navy Ships
Now the USS Chung-Hoon was able to get a new bolt 3D printed through the ship. They sent over their broken bolt to a machinery repairman at the USS John C. Stennis. The team learned how to use the 3D printer that has recently been installed, designed a new part using CAD software and printed it out for the USS Chung-Hoon.
While the eventual bolt that is used on the Chung-Hoon will be made through conventional technology, the replica is very necessary to provide the precise measurements for the process. Without that replica, it would have been a much more complicated process.
3D Printing Metal Components
The above story is the perfect example of how the Navy’s additive manufacturing initiative can help in real life situations. It is all part of a large commitment from the Navy to 3D printing.
Earlier in the year, Concurrent Technologies Corporation was awarded a two-year contract worth nearly $3 million to manufacture metal 3D printed parts. The contract will result in the manufacture of 3D printed parts for air, ground and sea equipment and machinery.
Machine Learning for 3D Printing
Another recent contract from the United States Navy went to Senvol. It is a software development company with a focus on machine learning for additive manufacturing. The goal is to develop a machine learning platform that can make the process of 3D printing quicker for the Navy.
Additive manufacturing offers unique advantages to the United States Navy. Damaged or worn out parts are commonplace among air, sea and ground vehicles, machines and other equipment. Replacing those parts through traditional means can take weeks or months, which costs unnecessary time and money.
Replacing Aging Parts
3D printing is also set to assist the Navy in resolving a major issue that has plagued the organization for the past decade. The Navy is aware that much of its fleet is aging. Some ships are a few decades old. Moreover, the parts needed to revitalize those ships are not even manufactured anymore.
The parts must be custom-designed and manufactured. It is a process the American Navy can handle, but it would come at a significant cost. Additive manufacturing would significantly lower that cost while providing much-needed flexibility to the process.
The American Navy is always looking to innovate and evolve. It is why 3D printing will play such a critical role in its future manufacturing ambitions.