The technology behind 3D printing is fundamentally changing how we look at manufacturing, both on the small scale and large. We are seeing this tech enter housing construction, metal fabrication, and even the biomedical realm now that we have the ability to 3D print human tissues. Now, the military is looking into novel applications for this technology, to save time and money while offering even faster, more reliable, on-demand support–even in the depths of the ocean.
The U.S. Navy has just unveiled its newest project using disruptive technology–a 30-foot submarine hull created via 3D printing. They’ve dubbed it the “Optionally Manned Technology Demonstrator” (OMTD) and was modeled after a previous vehicle, the SEAL Delivery Vehicle, commonly abbreviated as SDV.
Traditionally, these vehicles are used to transport Navy SEALS to special operation sites, so they need to be technologically sound in order to protect these valuable assets and complete missions.
This proof-of-concept hull was created together by the U.S. Navy’s Disruptive Technology Lab and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). It was fabricated in ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility using the concept of Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) and is composed of six carbon fiber composite pieces.
This technology can reduce production costs for these in-demand vehicles by 90%–from $600,000 to $800,000 down to a mere $60,000. Perhaps even more disruptive, the hull was created in a matter of only days, giving this the potential for on-demand production.
The BAAM technology behind the new hull, according to Composite Manufacturing Magazine, “can 3-D large-scale products up to 10 times larger than currently producible. It also works at speeds 200 to 500 times faster than any existing additive machine.”
The team who worked on this project has already received a prestigious award for their efforts, the NAVSEA Commanders Award for Innovation.
The next step is to create a watertight version of the hull for testing at Carderock to see how the concept stands up to rigorous conditions that it may encounter at sea.
If the testing goes well, we could be seeing fleets of these new, 3D printed OMTDs in use by 2019, according to the Department of Energy who originally released this news.