All Aboard: 3D Printer Lands on U.S. Navy Ship

The Phillips Additive Hybrid system, which combines both subtractive and AM technologies, can create spare parts locally while at sea.

The Phillips Additive Hybrid system, which combines both subtractive and AM technologies, can create spare parts locally while at sea.

When out to sea for months on end, broken equipment can send crew members on a naval ship scrambling to find a fix, often reliant on far flung partners and complex supply chains to get the spare parts they need.

Thanks to a collaboration between Spanish wire-laser metal 3D printer maker Meltio and Phillips Corp., a global manufacturing solutions provider based in the United States, the USS Bataan ship will have its own onboard hybrid manufacturing system, allowing it to produce parts on-demand at sea and gaining more self-sufficiency during missions.

The Phillips Additive Hybrid platform, the first of its kind installed on a U.S. Navy ship, integrates the laser metal deposition AM wire head technology of Meltio with the Haas TM-1 CNC vertical machining centers control mill. The hybrid system delivers both subtractive and additive manufacturing capabilities, and was installed under a joint effort between the Commander, the Naval Surface Force Atlantic, and the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Technology Office.

The Phillips Additive Hybrid system prints 316L stainless steel, which is commonly used in U.S. Navy ship systems. With the capability, sailors will be able to print individual parts for systems on board the ship; previously, many parts were not readily available without procuring the entire system, incurring significantly higher costs.

By pairing the Haas TM-1 CNC platform, which has been proven to operate reliably at sea, with the Meltio deposition head, Navy crews gain access to both AM and subtractive capabilities within the same system, increasing efficiency and reducing waste when compared to typical machining environments, the officials said. “This technology has enormous industrial applications in the naval and marine sector, in defense, and in other industrial sectors where it is necessary to be able to manufacture parts when and where it is needed,” said Angel Liavero, CEO of Meltio, in a prepared release.

The merged system will enable naval engineers to create sophisticated machine parts and quality-of-life items at the point of need, when time and operational availability are of utmost concern. “The introduction of AM into naval operations supports readiness and self-sufficiency,” stated Rear Admiral Brandan McLane, commander, Naval Surface Force Atlanta, in a press release. The set up will also help the Navy overcome obsolescence issues for ships, where parts service lives often span decades.

The Bataan is a multi-purpose amphibious assault ship that carries more than 2,500 sailors and marines.

Watch this video to learn more about the Phillips Additive Hybrid system.

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Beth Stackpole's avatar
Beth Stackpole

Beth Stackpole is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to [email protected].

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