The US Navy has been on board with 3D printing for quite some time now, using the technology to create all sorts of innovations, such as the tiny TruClip, drones, a huge submarine hull, explosives, and even missile components.
Metal 3D printing research in the Navy is ongoing, and NAVAIR believes that it will have approved almost 1,000 3D printed parts, including both new and replacement components, for use across the fleet by the end of the year.
This week, 3D printing leader 3D Systems, which has partnered with the Navy for 3D printing initiatives in the past, announced that it is collaborating with Huntington Ingalls Industries – specifically its Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) division – in order to qualify metal 3D printing for the purpose of building naval warships.
“3D Systems is proud of our long-standing relationship with the U.S. Navy. Through this collaboration with Newport News Shipbuilding, our 3D printing solution combined with our team’s expertise in metal 3D printing technology will redefine the supply chain for naval ship components – improving efficiencies and lowering total cost of operation,” said Kevin McAlea, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Metals and Healthcare for 3D Systems.
NNS, one of only two providers of submarines for the Navy, is also the only designer, builder, and refueler of the agency’s aircraft carriers, so it has a pretty important job keeping the Navy’s fleet afloat. Together with 3D Systems, the company will transform shipbuilding for the Navy.
3D Systems and NNS will work to transform portions of the Navy’s current, traditional manufacturing processes over to additive ones – this will allow for increased production rates, with less waste, of highly accurate parts, which is very important in terms of military applications. In addition, the potential is high to significantly cut down on costs using 3D printing.
For decades now, 3D Systems has offered its 3D printing expertise to the Navy. But its new partnership with NNS signifies the end result of many combined R&D efforts over the years to qualify metal 3D printing as a viable option for building parts and components for nuclear-powered naval vessels.
3D Systems has now completed the collaboration’s first milestone by delivering and installing one of its ProX DMP 320 metal 3D printers at NNS. This system, first introduced by 3D Systems in early 2016, is designed for high-volume industrial applications and precision metal 3D printing of complex parts.
“Newport News Shipbuilding is leading the digital transformation to further revolutionize how shipbuilders build the next generation of warships. With the inclusion of the ProX DMP 320 into our manufacturing workflow, this marks the first metal 3D printer installed at a major U.S. Navy shipyard,” said Charles Southall, Vice President of Engineering and Design, Newport News Shipbuilding. “With this disruptive technology, Newport News has the potential to reinvent shipbuilding.”
The ProX DMP 320 will serve as the foundation of the agreement between 3D Systems and NNS. The two companies will work together to develop new and improved 3D printing technologies, as well as enhance part production, and will use the ProX DMP 320 to 3D print marine-based metal alloy replacement parts for brackets, castings, housings, and valves for the Navy’s future nuclear-powered warships.
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