WASHINGTON (NNS) -- From creating human-like robot heads to 30-foot, full-size vessels inspired by SEAL Delivery Vehicles, 3-D printing is playing a huge role in future Navy innovations.
Twenty different naval organizations gathered to display their 3-D printing, also known as Additive Manufacturing (AM), capabilities during the Fiscal Year 2017 Department of the Navy 3D Print-a-thon, March 15.
"This is the Department of Navy Print-a-thon," said Carl Henshaw, a member of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. "It is a demonstration of Additive Manufacturing techniques for naval operations. [This] lets the Department of Defense really understand where Additive Manufacturing is as a technology, what it's good for, and where it's going."
The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition hosted the event - which included scientists, engineers, maintenance operations, Sailors and Marines - to give Sailors and Department of Defense (DoD) employees a chance to learn how Navy implements AM technologies to enhance warfighting capabilities and readiness/sustainment.
Innovations included a tactical unmanned aircraft designed to support visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations, customized propellers used for unmanned underwater vehicles, and low-cost array antennas.
"What we are displaying here is a 3-D printed quadcopter that was printed aboard USS Essex (LHD 2)," said Mark Jue, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division innovator. "The importance of the quadcopter was to show how we could print parts for the quadcopter onboard the ship."
Each of these inventions is either fully created, or has major components built, by 3-D printing; saving the Department of Navy time and money.
"The Navy and Marine Corps should care about 3-D printing because this is a money saver and is also a way for us to advance our technology," said Jue. "I see the Department of Navy and 3-D printing really taking us into the future as far as being able to rapidly prototype. If you have an idea, and you want to see what it might look like, you could print a model of it and see. It is pretty quick and easy to get a model out and printed, so it will help [the person] visualize what is going to happen."
On top of giving others a chance to view these developing ideas, it also allowed innovators to network and develop future collaborations.
"This event let a lot of the senior leadership to see what we are working on at the warfare centers and other agencies," said Jue. "It gives them an idea of our thoughts, as engineers, so that we are on the same path.
"The advantage of having all these technologies here, and the principal investigators that are working on it, gives us a great opportunity to see what other people are working on, that might align with what we are working on, and possibly merge them together," Jue explained. "It's a good way to network with the other PIs that are working on the same technology...and create something that might have not ever been thought about."
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