Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding (HII-NNS) has announced the delivery of the first 3D printed metal part to be installed on a nuclear-powered U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. The 3D printed part—whose development and trajectory we’ve been following for some time—signifies a milestone for the adoption of additive manufacturing in the production of warship parts.
The part in question, a 3D printed piping assembly, was presented last week at a ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk and will soon be installed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Following installation, the part will be monitored and evaluated over a one-year period. If all goes well, you can bet we’ll be hearing about more metal 3D printed components being installed on nuclear-powered warships.
Now that the 3D printed component is ready to be installed on an aircraft carrier, it is interesting to look back and see the part’s trajectory, which began just last year. In May 2018, Newport News Shipbuilding, the HII division responsible for designing, building and refuelling the U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, announced a partnership with 3D Systems to qualify metal additive manufacturing technologies for nuclear-powered naval warships.
At the time, 3D Systems installed its ProX DMP 320 metal 3D printer at the shipbuilder’s facility, making it the first metal 3D printer to be used at a major U.S. Navy Shipyard. By adopting additive manufacturing, Newport News aimed to increase production rates for high accuracy parts, reduce material waste and minimize production costs.
Over the next several months, HII-NNS developed the metal piping prototype for an aircraft carrier, which was approved by NAVSEA in October 2018. The part—the same component to be installed aboard the USS Harry S. Truman—is a steam system assembly that enables water to be drained from a steam line while it is in use.
Fast forward to today and the 3D printed assembly is ready to be installed aboard the aircraft carrier—an event which could shift the future landscape of military shipbuilding.
“We are pleased to have worked so closely with our Navy partners to get to the point where the first 3D metal part will be installed on an aircraft carrier,” commented Charles Southall, Newport News’ vice president of engineering and design. “The advancement of additive manufacturing will help revolutionize naval engineering and shipbuilding. It also is a significant step forward in our digital transformation of shipbuilding processes to increase efficiency, safety and affordability. This is an accomplishment we all should be proud of.”