Jul 21, 2017 | By Benedict

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has partnered with the Navy’s Disruptive Technology Lab to develop the military’s first 3D printed submarine hull. The 30-foot carbon fiber demonstrator was 3D printed on ORNL’s Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) 3D printer over the course of a few days.

Building submarines is a costly business. With your average submersible SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) hull costing between $600,000 and $800,000, the Navy is constantly looking for new ways to lower the price of its production methods.

Thanks to a recent partnership between ORNL and the Navy’s Disruptive Technology Lab, there could now be a radical new way to cut the cost of submarines by up to 90 percent. Using ORNL’s BAAM 3D printer, the team was able to fabricate an affordable, 3D printed, SDV-inspired hull.

The 3D printed hull, an Optionally Manned Technology Demonstrator, was inspired by traditional SDVs, but is unlike anything that has ever plumbed the depths before. The 30-foot structure is made from a carbon fiber composite, and consists of six main pieces. Incredibly, the entire process—from concept to assembly—took less than four weeks.

This could be hugely important for future submarine production, since SDVs currently take around three to five months to manufacture. With the BAAM reducing this time by a huge amount, the Navy is now in a great position to take advantage of “on-demand” production of aquatic vehicles.

While the current 3D printed demonstrator hasn’t been built for water testing, a future printed hull will indeed be put through its paces in the deep. After the Navy team scooped the prestigious NAVSEA Commanders Award for Innovation last week, it is now ready to create a second 3D printed hull that will be tested at an elite testing facility in the Navy’s Carderock facility in Maryland.

Amazingly, ORNL and the Navy team say that fleet-capable prototypes could be introduced and put in the water as early as 2019.

Of course, the Navy can’t give away too much about how it built its 3D printed submarine, but both the armed forces branch and ORNL say they will use their experience gained on the project to develop further 3D printed technologies of a similar nature.

The 3D printed submarine, 30 feet in length, becomes the Navy’s largest 3D printed asset.

Other 3D printed submarines have been built in the past, but none have been on such a scale as this. In may 2016, we reported that a team of engineering students from the UK’s University of Warwick was planning to bring Godiva 2, a functional 3D printed submarine, to the European International Submarine Races in Gosport, England.

Last month, Navy sources confirmed that the use of blockchain technology was being explored to protect the Navy’s 3D printing data.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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