3D Systems and Huntington Ingalls Industries Collaborate on Metal Printing

Marine alloys would enable replacement of traditional casting technologies.

3D Systems intends to add these new alloys to its materials portfolio.

New materials could allow Newport News Shipbuilding to additively manufacture parts that are traditionally cast. Pictured here is the USS George H. W. Bush. Image courtesy of 3D Systems/Huntington Ingalls.

3D Systems is collaborating with Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding division to develop Copper-Nickel (CuNi) and Nickel-Copper (NiCu) alloys for powder bed fusion additive manufacturing. These new materials could allow Newport News Shipbuilding to additively manufacture parts that are traditionally cast—reducing lead times by up to 75% to improve supply chain efficiency.

CuNi and NiCu are known alloys that are corrosion-resistant, which makes them beneficial for marine applications. While parts produced with these metals possess high strength and toughness over various temperatures, they must currently be produced using traditional casting methods. This requires long lead times—sometimes in excess of 12 months—and multiple suppliers. If these alloys could be formulated for use with metal 3D printing technologies, lead times for some of these parts could be reduced to a fraction of the traditional procurement time.

“Customer-centric innovation has been a driving force for 3D Systems since its founding,” says Chuck Hull, co-founder, EVP, chief technology officer, 3D Systems. “Through our ongoing collaboration with Newport News Shipbuilding, we have yet another opportunity to bring to bear our deep materials science and application engineering expertise—allowing our customers to maximize the power of additive manufacturing within their organization. These new materials have the potential to redefine Newport News Shipbuilding’s innovation pipeline enabling them to more efficiently deliver high-quality parts.”

Through this materials development effort, 3D Systems is working with Newport News Shipbuilding to select the alloy composition, design the process parameter experiments and qualify parts that include tensile and other material testing. With these new materials, Newport News Shipbuilding will be able to use their metal AM solution to produce replacement parts for castings as well as valves, housings and brackets. With use of these materials demonstrated, 3D Systems anticipates they will be added to its materials portfolio to address applications where corrosion is a major concern such as oil and gas production and refining, and utility energy production.

“Over the past few years, our companies have collaborated to support the qualification of metal additive manufacturing technologies in order to build parts for naval warships and conducted research and development of a corrosion performance design guide for direct metal printing of a nickel-based alloy,” says Dave Bolcar, vice president of engineering and design for Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries. “We’re looking forward to expanding on these efforts by developing parameters that will allow us to further expand the use of additive manufacturing into our platforms, in order to improve both product quality, schedule, and performance for the fleet.” 

3D Systems has contributed additive manufacturing expertise to the U.S. Navy for decades with its additive manufacturing solutions being used for everything from aircraft parts to submersible components. In 2018, 3D Systems and Newport News Shipbuilding entered a joint development agreement to qualify metal additive manufacturing technologies to build naval warships.

At the time, 3D Systems delivered and installed a ProX DMP 320—the predecessor to the company’s DMP Flex 350—with the goal of moving portions of Newport News’ manufacturing process from traditional methods to additive, enhancing production rates of high accuracy parts with reduced waste and reducing cost. Developing new marine alloys for Newport News’ applications needs will allow them to continue expanding the role AM plays in their manufacturing workflow.

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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