3D-printing metal parts starts up at ‘America’s Shipyard’

3D-printing metal parts starts up at ‘America’s Shipyard’

AM Chronicle Editor

Following is an edited excerpt from an article posted to the Defense Vision Information Distribution Service, which shares stories about members of the U.S. military. The article reports on efforts to expand the use of metal 3D printing at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Kristi R. Britt wrote the article.

Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) is charging ahead, continuously seeking to accelerate process improvements and innovations. An example is adoption of metal 3D printing at its Additive Manufacturing (AM) Center of Excellence (CoE)—a one-stop shop for the shipyard and its customers to develop tools and parts in-house.

“The AM CoE is a space we’ve been planning and working to achieve since 2020,” said NNSY Technology and Innovation AM CoE Project Manager and AM Lead Jessica Roberts. “Currently, the shipyard only has the ability to 3D-print with polymers and plastics; however, new metal printers will be a game changer for what we can do at ‘America’s Shipyard.’ Our first metal printer, a smaller desktop machine, was installed in mid-November, and we’ve already received multiple requests for metal prints.

“Long-term, these metal printers will be used to develop tools and end-use parts for our workforce, eventually including critical-level prints so we can provide our mechanics and Sailors with the quality products they need while saving costs and/or time,” Roberts said.

NNSY plans to acquire several new metal printers, including two DED (directed energy deposition) printers, a friction stir welding printer, and a PBF (powder bed fusion) printer. They will be able to print a variety of materials, including stainless steel, tool steel, nickel alloy, and aluminum. With the new capabilities, the shipyard could make great strides in developing tools that complement its current capabilities.

“At America’s Shipyard, it’s all about one team serving one mission,” said Roberts. “This endeavor is a huge testament to teamwork in order to get equipment up and running and to ensure everything runs smoothly.

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