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By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs
Additive manufacturing is expanding what is possible in engineering and the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) warfare centers are ensuring they remain at the forefront of this emerging field.
About 30 representatives from nine of the 10 NAVSEA warfare centers and other Navy research installations met at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport from Oct. 18-19 for a meeting of the Additive Manufacturing Warfare Centers Working Group to discuss their latest efforts in the domain.
“We haven’t had an in-person meeting in quite a while,” said Dr. Caroline Vail, an additive manufacturing (AM) technical expert from Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Carderock Division, who is the lead of the working group. “This group was set up by the NAVSEA warfare center engineers and scientists that advance and use AM, and during this meeting we talked through what our sites are doing and areas for collaboration. These meetings are an opportunity to meet people, collaborate and share lessons learned, which is something we’ve been very successful in doing.”
Most of the attendees joined in-person, while a few participated in the presentations virtually. In addition to the warfare centers, representatives from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (DASN), Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific, NIWC Atlantic, NAVSEA Engineering and Logistics Directorate Technology Office (SEA 05T), Department of Energy Naval Nuclear Laboratory and the Naval Research Laboratory participated.
Each day opened with tours of Division Newport’s facilities in the morning, and followed with presentations and discussions on each organization’s efforts in additive manufacturing in the afternoon. Those attending in person had the chance to see some of the ways Division Newport is using additive manufacturing in periscopes, launchers, towed arrays, unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs), fuel cells, composites and pressure, vibration, shock and acoustic testing.
Participants also toured a number of Division Newport’s facilities, including the Advanced Concepts in Mechanical Engineering (ACME) Lab, anechoic chamber, wind tunnel, Undersea Warfare Platform and Payload Integration Department Makerspace, Ranges, Engineering and Analysis Department Additive Space, Chemistry Laboratory, Bio-inspired Research and Development Laboratory, and the Narragansett Bay Test Facility.
“This was an opportunity to see a lot of what Division Newport does at a high level,” said Division Newport engineer Lewis Shattuck of the Developmental Systems Engineering Branch in the Sensors and Sonars System Department. “We’re trying to build a database to allow us to quickly make smart design decisions and build up that cultural trust in additive manufacturing.”
Simply stated, additive manufacturing is the process of adding materials in layers to make 3D objects from 3D model data. While not a replacement for traditional manufacturing, it is proving to be a critical tool for the warfare centers.
AM saves the Navy cost and time by shortening the design-prototype-manufacture cycle, while also increasing readiness with parts on-demand and as a potential alternate source of supply parts. It improves part performance by creating new options for design complexity, and increases operations availability and rapid response.
“AM is an important tool,” Dr. Cindy Waters, a senior scientific technical manager at Carderock, said, during her presentation on Oct. 18. “If you think about hundreds of years ago, they didn’t have lathes and when they were invented, they were cutting-edge. Now, we have a completely new technology that has come about. It’s going to open up design possibilities that we haven’t had before, but it’s going to take research to do it.”
Additive manufacturing represents an exciting opportunity for the warfare centers, which collectively operate as the Navy's full-spectrum research, development, test and evaluation, engineering, and fleet support hubs.
At Division Newport, for example, additive manufacturing is being utilized to create unique geometric parts for bio-inspired platforms. Other efforts include a variety of universal parts for towed systems, pressure vessels and UUVs. In each case, additive manufacturing allows for the parts to be tested without expensive moldings being produced, thus saving significant cost and time.
“We have a lot of low volume research and development effort that rapidly deployed to support fleet needs, and you want the lowest cost and highest iterative process,” Shattuck said. “We want to quickly change a part and get it out there.”
One of the best ways to make additive manufacturing a more robust tool is through collaboration. Led by Carderock, the Additive Manufacturing Working Group was formed in 2014 to advance, enable and promote additive manufacturing technology for innovative, timely and cost effective solutions to the warfighter that improves the Navy's overall capability and capacity.
Group members are subject matter experts who work with additive manufacturing on a regular basis, either through direct implementation or by working to improve additive manufacturing technology.
Each site provides regular updates on major projects in additive manufacturing, new systems under consideration for procurement, and feedback and lessons learned on different additive manufacturing systems. This allows for collaboration on different projects, as each organization has different specialty areas and facilities. Combined, the warfare centers have additive manufacturing systems of varying sizes, materials, and capabilities. Roughly three quarters are polymer systems that give engineers quick access to rapid printing of fixtures, prototypes and tooling in direct support of their projects. The remaining systems are specialized, such as printing large scale, metal, energetics, electronic materials and new materials.
“These systems are for improving part performance, specialized prototyping or tooling, and developing knowledge of the systems,” Vail said. “All AM systems are used in coordination with existing on-site technical capabilities at each warfare center that allow the engineers, scientists and technicians to get the job done better.
“Proliferation of AM technology within the warfare centers demonstrates the critical need for the workforce to have access to the best tools for manufacturing with no single AM printer meeting all needs. Each site has external collaborations with other government labs, equipment manufacturers, universities and industry in AM. These external collaborations also are discussed within the AM working group to ensure broad awareness across sites.”
NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.
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