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Home : Media : News
NAVSEA NEWS
NEWS | Feb. 22, 2017

Carderock's MAKE Lab: One Year Later

By Alisha Tyer, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division

Since opening its doors March 2016, the Manufacturing, Knowledge and Education (MAKE) Lab has attracted a wide variety of employees across Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division curious about the additive manufacturing (AM) process and its application to Navy programs.

AM, or 3-D printing, is a cross-cutting manufacturing technology in which parts are built by the addition of material in thin, successive layers. The technology presents an ability to produce and reproduce components in a quick, cost-effective, on-demand fashion.

AM is a rapidly maturing technology and, in recent years, its benefits have gained increased recognition. The technology is of significance to the Navy, as it offers the potential to rapidly develop and improve upon systems and components crucial to supporting the fleet and its warfighters. Future projections of AM integration include all aspects of naval operations, from research and development to production, manufacturing, and life cycle maintenance support.

Within Carderock, the potential capabilities of AM technology are of particular interest to many employees, including those outside of the materials and manufacturing area. Kent Bartlett, a mechanical engineer in Carderock's Hydroacoustics and Propulsor Development Branch, is an active proponent of AM technology. He advocates the speed and flexibility AM affords in the production of complicated parts. In support of test work in the anechoic flow facility, Bartlett utilized the MAKE Lab to additively manufacture an adapter used to connect varying diameters of Tygon, a flexible polymer tubing used to create static pressure taps.

Bartlett explained how the limitations of the pre-manufactured adapters did not allow his team to freely connect tubes of varying diameters, as they are pre-fitted for specific tubing pairs.

"Well, one adapter might connect 1/8-1/4 inch, and you can only use it for 1/8-1/4 inch tubing," Bartlett said. "So, what I did was take this existing product, which costs about $65, I took that same design and I turned it into a 3-D print. If the part gets ruined or breaks, it's cheap and fast to remake or tweak my design as needed. Plus, creating the adapter myself means I can go to and from whatever sizes I want. That means we can use the adapters a lot more within our facility."

The MAKE Lab, managed by the Carderock's Additive Manufacturing Project Office, aims for a collaborative-style approach to the 3-D printing process, one which inspires creativity and innovation by encouraging knowledge-share and providing an open-access space and resources necessary to actively test the AM process. The AM Project Office offers training to anyone who wants to explore the lab's AM capabilities, and employees are not required to have a technical background to use the lab. In fact, many who take training are unfamiliar with the 3-D printing process before learning to utilize the lab's equipment, according to Jonathan Hopkins, a mechanical engineer and acting head of the AM Project Office.

Hopkins highly encourages all employees, technical and non-technical, to take the two-hour training which consists of a presentation, discussion of the goals of the MAKE Lab, a demonstration of software and equipment, and culminates with each trainee creating their own 3-D print. So far, 155 employees have participated in the training, Hopkins said.

"The MAKE Lab is a pretty open place in terms of your background; you really don't need any background to join," Bartlett said when asked what advice or encouragement he would offer to others considering visiting or using the MAKE Lab. "It's very easy to get a hold of admin or supervisors in order to take the training, and once you do, the lab is open and accessible. If you have time in your schedule, then the MAKE Lab is there when you need it. So I think it's very beneficial and easy to get involved. It really is awesome; you should do it."