U.S Navy To Integrate 3D Printing On Virginia-Class Submarine To Speed Up Construction Process

The Newport News Shipbuilding division of HII alongside General Dynamics Electric Boat (abbreviated GDEB) has recently sourced a unique component from a 3D printing firm dubbed AMMCON, which they’ll integrate onto the Virginia-class attack submarine, Oklahoma (SSN 802).

The two original equipment manufacturers (popular as OEM) of the Virginia class have focused on the availability and deployment of marine-based alloys, like copper-nickel, as an alternative to conventional copper-nickel castings.

U.S Navy To Integrate 3D Printing On Virginia-Class Submarine
Photo by Ashley Cowan/HII

Very recently, OEMs decided to use a 3D-printed part for a copper-and-nickel deck drain assembly. Working with AMMCON on the proof of concept and model, GDEB and HII made a copper-and-nickel deck drain part with additive manufacturing.

About 37% of the US Navy’s SSN fleet – 31 of 49 units – were unavailable for operations in FY 2023, 14 boats were listed as undergoing maintenance, and four were described as “idle” and yet to undergo maintenance. The ratio of active to inactive has worsened from FY 2022, which had about 33% of the total SSN force undergoing maintenance or idle.

Delays extend to the building of the USN’s 12 ballistic missile (SSBN) Columbia-class subs. Costing $132 billion, the USN anticipates that the amount will accumulate more as the delays persist.

Per the Government Accountability Office of the US, the US Navy lacks insights into the program’s schedule as HII Newport, the shipbuilder, has not carried out a schedule risk analysis that can help recognize and manage risks for achieving planned delivery dates.
GDEB and HII’s transition to 3D printing can serve as a solution to delays owing to the on-demand and customized delivery of parts as well as specialized tools that HII has used in the past with a spot face cutter on the John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) aircraft carrier of the Gerald R. Ford class.

Thanks to the developments in advanced manufacturing methods like 3D printing, the American naval manufacturing major HII had claimed that the tech developments would save several thousand man-hours with time.

References: Naval News, Naval Technology

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