Approximately two months ago the United States Navy installed the very first 3D printer on board the USS Essex, Wasp class amphibious assault ship. The printer was able to print in polymer materials only, and would be used to make small parts, as well as train sailors to use the technology. In addition, back in January the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City purchased a $200,000, polymer based 3D printer to prototype and make parts for projects they were working on. As the strongest military in the world, it is certainly important to remain at the forefront of technological advancements.
Clearly the Navy understands this, and today, the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center in Lakehurst, New Jersey issued a request for information from the public regarding a planned procurement of a 3D printer which can print in a variety of metals. This, as far as we are aware, would be the first metal printer that the Navy will be acquiring. Businesses are asked to submit their proposals which should include 30 specific pieces of information which the Navy has asked for, concerning the machine(s) they have to offer. These include specifications such as power consumption, printer resolution, printer size, material storage requirements, etc. The requirements for the machine they are looking for are as follows.
- Build chamber: greater than or equal to 1000 cubic inches
- Print Material: Aluminum, Steel, Stainless steel, Titanium, & Inconel
- Minimum Build rate of 1 cubic mm/s
- Minimum achievable part accuracy of 100 μm in x, y, and z directions
The exact uses of such a device have not been stated, however, it’s safe to assume it will not be used solely for prototyping. Metal 3D printers are traditionally used for the manufacturing of finished products. There is a very good chance that the Navy plans on printing out their own components for a variety of equipment used at their base.
The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, New Jersey is an important link between Navy Aircraft Carrier, and Naval Aviation battle groups around the globe. The main responsibility of the division is “maintaining fleet support and infusing modern technology across the entire spectrum of equipment needed to launch, land, and maintain aircraft from ships at sea.”
The facilities at Lakehurt include over 7400 acres of land, two runways, three mile-long test tracks, six large hangers, and 298 buildings. It employs 3,500 individuals, and generates over $327 million for the New Jersey economy. Clearly this will be an important purchase for a very important Naval division.
Discuss this story in the U.S. Navy, Metal 3D Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com.
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