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NEWS | March 25, 2021

NSWC Crane team leverages NISE funding to provide hands-on Additive Manufacturing training to sailors at sea

By Sarah K. Miller, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications

CRANE, Ind. – Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) engineers used Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE) funds to provide hands-on training to sailors at sea.

A Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) team (NAVSEA 05T) with personnel from NSWC Carderock and NSWC Philadelphia installed the additive manufacturing (AM) technology onboard Navy ships and submarines. This team led the research and development (R&D) initiative starting in 2018.

As of 2020, eight ships have received installations of this technology. AM is the process of joining materials to make parts from three-dimensional (3D) model data, usually layer by layer.

After a recent installation of AM technology, NSWC Crane engineers Eric St. Ours and Dr. Steven Seghi rode alongside sailors for two weeks as the USS Boxer (LHD-4) transited from San Diego to Pearl Harbor. St. Ours and Dr. Seghi used NISE funds to conduct additional hands-on training for sailors onboard the U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship. By using the funds, they were also able to provide in-depth training to more sailors onboard.

“We significantly expanded the total amount of training the sailors received during those two weeks onboard," says St. Ours. "We provided AM and Computer Aided Design (CAD) training, which provided the sailors with the skills and best practices required to design and print needed parts onboard ship.”

The Department of Defense (DOD) Additive Manufacturing Strategy states, “AM is a form of digital manufacturing relying on 3D models and simulations to produce custom solutions…The transformation of the engineering process from design-build-test to a model-analyze-build methodology is enabled by the rapid prototyping and unique manufacturing capabilities of AM.”

It continues, “The use of virtual environments, creating a manufacturing “digital twin” to improve manufacturing operations and maintain appropriate databases as part of a model-based enterprise, will support materiel readiness going forward.”

The two-week underway training material for the sailors included: identification of ideal candidate parts, how to design parts in CAD, best practices for designing parts to be created with AM, general 3D printer use and care, determination of risk associated with a part, and submission for parts approval within the established NAVSEA guidelines.

AM can be applied to a variety of parts onboard a ship like the USS Boxer and is a tool that helps save the crew time and money on equipment. AM can be used to create knobs, hand wheels, various caps, and more, as well as create plastic parts that may provide more temporary solutions until they can access more permanent parts ashore.

For example, the sailors onboard used the AM technology and lessons-learned to reconstruct a small plastic closure on ship washing and drying machines.

“There was a plastic interlock tab that would easily break,” says St. Ours. “Unfortunately, you can’t buy the tab itself, you have to buy an entire new machine. After the sailors were trained, they could easily design and print a solution to repair the dryers. They saved five dryers, which is about five-thousand dollars of cost savings. We were able to give them the necessary knowledge and tools but they took it from there and developed the solution without any assistance from us.”

Dr. Seghi says the Crane team’s technical AM experience provided value to those onboard.

“Eric and I aren’t the only people with AM knowledge, but we have a range of AM experience we were able to share onboard. Another factor to the success was that the Maintenance Officer on the ship was all in. He came up with a plan to implement this and came up with a framework to streamline the process in the backend, and this process improvement limited the opportunity for things to be overlooked.”

Dr. Seghi says the two-week training was a complete, in-depth process and allows for agile implementation.

“From part identification to creation, we helped the sailors equip themselves with knowledge to solve a variety of challenges while they are at sea,” says Dr. Seghi.

About NSWC Crane

NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.

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