3D printed ships move a step closer

A 3D printed ship moved a step closer yesterday. Shares in New York-listed 3D Systems rocketed on news it has signed a collaboration pact with Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding division to qualify metal additive manufacturing technologies to build naval warships.

Newport News Shipbuilding is the sole designer, builder and refueller of US Navy aircraft carriers and one of two providers of US Navy submarines. Through this collaboration, the yard will move portions of its manufacturing process from traditional methods to additive, anticipating enhanced production rates of high accuracy parts with reduced waste, and potential for significant cost savings over other traditional production processes.

The first milestone in this agreement was achieved with 3D Systems delivering and installing a ProX DMP 320 3D metal printer at Newport News Shipbuilding’s site. Newport News plans to use the ProX DMP 320 – designed for precision metal 3D printing – to produce marine-based alloy replacement parts for castings as well as valves, housings and brackets – for future nuclear-powered warships. With the ProX DMP 320 as the foundation, the companies are already developing new additive manufacturing technologies to further enhance parts production.

“Newport News Shipbuilding is leading the digital transformation to further revolutionise how shipbuilders build the next generation of warships,” said Charles Southall, vice president of engineering and design, Newport News Shipbuilding. “With the inclusion of the ProX DMP 320 into our manufacturing workflow, this marks the first metal 3D printer installed at a major US Navy shipyard. With this disruptive technology, Newport News has the potential to reinvent shipbuilding.”

Shipyards around the world are researching the potential for 3D printing. Among the most high profile projects to date has come from Dutch builder Damen, which has managed to get class approval for a 3D printed propeller.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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