US Navy enhances sea power through additive manufacturing technology

[According to Jane's International Navy, June 24, 2019]: The US Navy and manufacturers have begun to use 3D printing technology to maintain and build parts of equipment to help the US Navy increase productivity, cut costs, and design new features. Previously, the US Navy’s “Vision for Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing Technology” document stated that the US Navy has regarded 3D printing technology as a breakthrough technology and plans to jointly promote the development of 3D printing in the industry. Through technology alliances, the US Navy can quickly prepare high-demand, low-density products to improve the readiness of key systems, thereby improving the navy's lethality and preparation speed, and related products can also be used as an alternate source of ship parts.


For the Navy, additive manufacturing technology will bring three major advantages to the US Navy: 1. Improve the ship's ability to continue operations and increase operational readiness. For example, the "Stannis" aircraft carrier successfully used the 3D printer already equipped to successfully prepare a satellite antenna rotary joint for replacing failed parts without waiting for 16 weeks; 2. Production of obsolete or difficult to purchase small batch parts; Prepare more reliable and robust parts.


For shipyards, the use of additive manufacturing technology provides rapid support and new component customization capabilities for emergencies. For example, Huntington Ingles' Newport News Shipyard (NNS) believes that additive manufacturing technology can improve repetitive production tasks and reduce the time required to produce parts in continuous and small batches. NNS addresses the difficulties encountered in additive manufacturing in the shipbuilding sector through close liaison with material suppliers, equipment manufacturers and governments. At present, NNS has used additive manufacturing technology to prepare non-metallic parts for more than 10 years. The technology is relatively mature. Now the focus is on the development of metal parts. The first metal parts have been delivered to the US Navy and installed on the Truman. Aircraft carrier.


In addition, Europe has also increased its focus on additive manufacturing technology. The European European Defence Agency (EDA) has launched a series of additive manufacturing research projects in recent years. For example, CapTech Materials is using 3D printing technology to develop new auxetic materials to increase the armor protection of related equipment in various fields of defense. At the same time, the Norwegian Defense Research Institute (FFI) has also conducted research on offshore applications. When FFI participated in the Norwegian “Flotex” sea exercise, it explored the naval warfare requirements and how the marine environment affected the printing process and improved the practical operation capability by carrying a fused deposition 3D printer. In the future, as the strategic competition situation in the Arctic intensifies, the on-site preparation of additive manufacturing technologies and the ability to shorten the supply chain will become increasingly important.


At this stage, the biggest challenge and opportunity for additive manufacturing technology to apply to the Navy is to develop production and testing standards. Through the establishment of standards, it is expected to attract more technology investment and improve technical capabilities.