DefenseMetal Additive Manufacturing

Xerox ElemX printer installed on US Naval vessel

The printer, aboard the USS Essex (LHD 2), is the first metal 3D printer to be installed on a US Naval vessel

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Xerox Elem Additive Solutions has recently installed an ElemX liquid metal printer on board USS Essex (LHD 2) – making it the first metal additive manufacturing machine deployed on a US Naval vessel.

The ElemX printer was placed on the ship earlier this month in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with at-sea trials beginning immediately. The installation is the latest step in the US Navy’s strategy of using additive manufacturing to increase operational readiness for the fleet. It also builds on the relationship between the US Navy and Xerox Elem Additive that began with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California receiving the first-ever installation of the ElemX in 2020.

Xerox ElemX printer installed on US Naval vessel. It is the first metal 3D printer to be installed on a US Naval vessel (USS Essex (LHD 2))

“The military supply chain is among the most complex in the world and putting the ElemX on USS Essex means that sailors can now bypass that complexity and print parts when and where they need them,” said Tali Rosman, GM of Elem Additive. “We are proud to continue our partnership with the Navy to help them advance their additive manufacturing capabilities and execute their long-term vision.”

The ElemX printer leverages Xerox’s liquid metal AM technology that uses standard aluminum wire. Unlike other metal 3D printing technologies, there are no hazardous metal powders with ElemX and no need for special facility modifications or personal protective equipment to operate the machine. The printer also requires minimal post-processing and therefore provides a faster time-to-part. This ability to produce reliable replacement parts, on-demand, reduces the dependency on complex global supply chains for deployed forces.

Xerox ElemX printer installed on US Naval vessel. It is the first metal 3D printer to be installed on a US Naval vessel (USS Essex (LHD 2))

To withstand various sea states and environmental challenges that US naval warships encounter – the ElemX printer was installed in an industrial shipping container to ruggedize it. Currently, at sea on board USS Essex, trials have already begun to establish operational guidelines and technical feasibility studies to determine applications and use cases. A team on board USS Essex will design and print shipboard items and provide feedback to NPS and Commander, Naval Surface Force Pacific (COMNAVSURPAC).

Xerox’s ElemX printer was commercially introduced in February 2021, and since then, Elem Additive Solutions has expanded operations, including opening an Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Cary, North Carolina. The ElemX is a safer and simpler metal 3D printer, and addresses supply chain resiliency for transportation, aerospace, defense, and industrial manufacturing. Engineered to bring simplicity to the supply chain process – ElemX is a well-suited option for spares, repairs, and low-volume production parts.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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