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United States Navy Considers 3D Printers Aboard Ships

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3D Printing is inching its way into into the lives of millions of people. From doctors, to manufacturers, to the Military, 3D printing is being used for a variety of amazing applications. The miltary uses may soon be about to navy-3expand significantly. The Army has been using 3D printing in combat for a few years now. In fact 3d printers are on the ground in Afghanistan right now, being used as an alternative to having parts shipped to a base.

It may not quite be here yet.  However the United States Navy is also considering bringing 3D printers on board their ships. They envision a not so distant future when they can print spare parts, miniature combat drones, and even organs or other body parts, on Navy vessels in the middle of the sea.

There are still several issues they need to overcome, explains Coast Guard Commander Tyson Weinert, “They can’t be subjected to the pitch, the roll, the yaw [of a ship], so now you’ve got those forces acting on a printer,” he said. “What is the tolerance for that, how will the printer itself react to those other forces? You can try to manage the center of gravity as best you can, try and get the safest sot with the minimal amount of movement, but what is the trade off? What is on the ship already … versus where will the printers have to go? So that is a whole design process in itself.”

The Naval Additive Manufacturing Technology Interchange initiative, has been working diligently on ways around these problems.

“Twenty-five groups under its auspices are studying and testing various aspects of 3D printing that could be used on ships, submarines, in the air and more. This is a disruptive technology. We are very excited navy-2about this space.” said Rear Adm. Paul Verrastro with the office of the chief of naval operations.

Imagine a time when an injured soldier can get a new knee printed out, or even a liver. Another combat use could include the 3D printing of dozens or even hundreds of aerial drones on very short notice, which are capable of flying towards a target, confusing the enemy’s radar monitors, all while a fleet of bombers can sneak up, unnoticed. An application which is closer to reality is for the 3d printing of parts for naval ships, within hours, rather than having to wait days or longer in order to have a part replaced.

The technology certainly is exciting, something that could put America’s military a step or two ahead of their enemy’s. Applications like this should push 3D printing to an entirely new level as research and development continues to explode around the various technologies used within these printers.  Discuss the future military uses of 3D printers at 3DPrintboard.

 

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