You may remember last year when the Naval Postgraduate School announced a partnership with Xerox to use the ElemX 3D printer to explore the capabilities of 3D printers for the Navy and Marine Corps. Well, it seems that it has finally paid off. The Naval Postgraduate School has now partnered with Commander, Naval Surface Force, US Pacific Fleet (COMNAVSURFPAC) to install a 3D printer on America’s first warship. The Xerox 3D printer was placed on the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), according to a press release from COMNAVSURFPAC.
3D printing has become alluring in many industries for its speed and cost-effective parts, but navies around the world have set their sights on the technology for an even more innovative reason. It has long been postulated that by having a 3D printer on board, ships could become more self-sufficient, allowing them to print spare parts even when they are at sea. In this case, the ElemX was chosen not only because of the association, but also because it is one of the fastest printers on the market thanks to its unique liquid 3D printing process. Additionally, you can print parts made of aluminum up to 10″ by 10″, including common components such as heat sinks, housings, fuel adapters, air bleeder valves, valve covers, and more.
Although the Essex has always had the ability to make small items needed on the ship, they hope the 3D printer will expand its capabilities. Jonah Waage, Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class, Enlarged, “We have never been able to do anything with the precision and complexity that this new 3D printer will provide, which is important because it will help save time and money for our Navy in the long run.” Ultimately, the goal is to test and evaluate the 3D printer during navigational conditions (at sea) to determine its feasibility at sea, a long-time project of the Navy. The USS Essex is the first ship to participate, however it seems likely that others will join in the future.
The USS Essex becomes the first American ship with a 3D printer
Maritime applications for additive manufacturing aren’t new and the Navy certainly seems to be turning more and more toward the technology, but this marks the first time a 3D printer will be placed on a US Navy ship while it’s underway. at sea. That said, it’s not the first time a 3D printer has been on a warship. In particular, in 2019, a 3D printer was carried on board a French aircraft carrier, the “Charles de Gaulle”. However, this move shows how other navies are seeing the advantages, especially in terms of “preparing” for ships that may be far from port. The next step in this particular project will be training Sailors aboard the USS Essex to use the equipment.
Lt. Cmdr. Nicolas Batista, the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD) officer aboard Essex concluded, “Having this printer on board will essentially speed up, improve and increase our readiness for war. Additive manufacturing (AM) has become a priority and it is clear that AM will provide increased posture in warfighting efforts across the fleet and improve expeditionary maintenance that contributes to our surface competitive advantage.” You can get more information in the press release HERE.
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