US Navy installs metal 3D printer aboard USS Bataan

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US Navy installs metal 3D printer aboard USS Bataan
The USS Bataan aircraft carrier/Source: Wikipedia

The US Navy, by leveraging additive manufacturing technology, has advanced its efforts to improve self-sufficiency for deployed ships and crews and reduce supply chain lead times. It has now permanently installed the first metal 3D printer aboard USS Bataan.

The 3D printer, a Phillips Additive Hybrid system, is now installed on the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship and aircraft carrier USS Bataan.

“The introduction of Additive Manufacturing (AM) into naval operations supports readiness and self-sufficiency,” said Rear Adm. Brendan McLane, commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic.

Metal 3D printer aboard USS Bataan

Phillips Additive Hybrid system, which integrates a Meltio3D laser metal wire deposition head on a Haas TM-1 CNC mill
Phillips Additive Hybrid system, which integrates a Meltio3D laser metal wire deposition head on a Haas TM-1 CNC mill/Source: Phillips Corporation

The Phillips Additive Hybrid system, which integrates a Meltio3D laser metal wire deposition head on a Haas TM-1 computer numerical control mill, was installed as part of a joint effort between Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic and the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Technology Office. The Haas TM-1 platform has proven to be reliable in afloat environments aboard several aircraft carriers.

When compared to traditional machining, integrating the Meltio3D deposition head with the Haas TM-1 provides both additive and subtractive manufacturing capability within the same system, increasing efficiency and reducing waste.

The Phillips Additive Hybrid system prints 316L stainless steel, which is commonly used in US Navy ship systems. While stainless steel additive manufacturing onboard naval ships is new, it represents a step forward in providing Sailors with industrial-level manufacturing capabilities to print individual parts for systems that were previously unavailable without purchasing the entire system at a significantly higher cost.

The benefits of the 3D printer are twofold: it increases operational availability while decreasing demand on traditional and Navy-specific supply chains. Additionally, NAVSEA engineers installed a second 3D printer onboard Bataan to produce polymer (plastic) components. This printer allows the ship’s crew to print any of the 300+ AM Technical Data Packages developed by NAVSEA, which define the required design configuration and procedures to manufacture a part and ensure it performs properly.

“These printers have the ability to help the Navy overcome both obsolescence issues for ships and systems that have service lives measured in decades and directly contribute to enhanced operational availability of our systems and ships.”

– NAVSEA Chief Engineer Rear Adm. Jason Lloyd

USS Bataan

The Navy’s use of AM exemplifies enterprise-wide business process reform and innovation. As demonstrated on the USS Bataan, NAVSEA subject matter experts and industry partners are working to test, evaluate, and field the most advanced AM technologies to improve readiness and capabilities.

Bataan, the Navy’s fifth Wasp-class ship, is a multi-purpose amphibious assault ship that can carry more than 2,500 Sailors and Marines when fully loaded. She was commissioned on September 20, 1997, and is the second warship in the United States Navy to bear the name. CVL-29 was a small aircraft carrier of the Independence class that was commissioned in November 1943. CVL-29 was decommissioned in 1954 after serving in both World War II and the Korean War.

NAVSEA is the largest of the Navy’s six system commands, in charge of building, purchasing, and maintaining ships, submarines, and systems for the United States Navy. NAVSEA’s Technology Office is leading multiple areas of research and development in AM equipment evaluation, using data not only from deployed assets but also from shore side lab activities to gain a critical understanding of how the equipment will perform under shipboard conditions. These evaluations will ensure that current and future shipboard implementations of this equipment fabricate parts in a consistent and reliable manner, allowing Sailors to address an increasing number of applications.

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