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Spotlights on Innovation

April 2017


Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Carderock Division has produced the largest DoD 3D printed object. The Optionally Manned Technology Demonstrator (OMTD) is a 30-foot-long, proof-of-concept hull print modeled after the Mark 8 Mod 1 SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV). NSWC Carderock is now funding a second version of OMTD capable of being towed in its test facilities. The OMTD's modular and reconfigurable design allows for a reduction of systems components and the design and fabrication cycle itself. It was printed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory on the Big Area Additive Manufacturing System (BAAMs).


The Secretary of Defense is sponsoring the 2017 Maintenance Innovation Challenge (MIC), with call for nominations across the Department of Defense. The MIC is a hallmark event designed to elicit and share innovative maintenance capabilities beyond technology to include unique partnerships, resourcing strategies, business practices, or other transformative capabilities that will make maintenance more agile, effective, and affordable.

Using additive manufacturing, Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Newport Division developed and fielded a Doppler Velocity Log (DVL) tow body in under 4 months, achieving 80% savings in cost and schedule. 3D printing allowed for low cost manufacturing of complex geometries -- which would have required expensive tooling procedures with traditional machining -- and the tow body design approach serves as a proof of concept for future fleet implementation of printing capability on-demand.


The Marine Corps announced those personnel who were selected for assignment to the Fiscal Year 2018 Naval Innovation Advisory Council beginning in August 2017. The field of applicants was highly competitive and reflected a diverse group of Marines committed to advancing innovative concepts within the Marine Corps and Department of Defense.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) operators currently use the MK2 (Talon) and MK1 (Packbot) platforms that are part of the Man Transportable Robotic System (MTRS). The grippers on these platforms were designed to be general purpose end-effectors -- multi-use components which do not excel at any specific task. As a result, EOD operators are often exposed to scenarios where the grippers do not perform to their expectations. To resolve this issue, Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division (NSWC IHEODTD) is developing specialized, additively manufactured robot grippers. This technology would also enable operators to manufacture replacement parts and new grippers as needed.


The MK 51 Gun Weapon System installed on the DDG-1000 employs an extended range 155mm guided projectile and a separate propelling charge housed in a steel case. The original manufacturing process for fabricating the propelling charge case is obsolete as industry is no longer able to affordably offer the deep draw process for production of the 155mm propelling charge cases. Fortunately, Naval Surface Warfare Warfare Center Dahlgren division (NSWCDD) has demonstrated the ability to produce the propelling charge case using additive manufacturing. While the current production process requires unique tooling and machinery -- limiting the supplier base in industry -- production via AM would broaden the supplier base and ensure the availability of charge cases.


WASHINGTON D.C. – Naval Radio Frequency (RF) engineers from Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific) participated in two high-visibility events showcasing additive manufacturing capabilities for Navy leadership and the public; a Department of Defense sponsored Print-a-thon March 15 at the Pentagon, and the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Symposium April 3 – 5 in National Harbor, Md.

The V-22 link is one of the two first flight-critical parts created via additive manufacturing that were qualified for flight within NAVAIR. Taking advantage of the unique geometries made possible by AM, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) developed a 3D printed prototype of a V-22 link in 17-4PH stainless steel with an embedded sensor for structural health monitoring. The sensor, or Microwave Frequency Cavity Resonator (MFCR), overcomes many limitations of conventional sensors and demonstrates the potential for in-service structural health monitoring in extreme conditions.


The Maverick Disposable Igniter Cable Saver (MaDICS) is a plastic injection molded item which is manufactured in large quantities (5,000+ items per run) and currently inventoried, stored, and distributed to the fleet on an as-needed-basis. However, due to the clip being designated as a single-use disposable unit, it would not be uncommon for the fleet to run-short of on-hand clips and often need to request additional items via the supply chain. Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) is developing a proactive solution to these supply chain issues utilizing Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and other additive manufacturing techniques. The FDM printing process is already well-established and cost-effective and the clips would be printable on-demand, as-needed.


The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Innovation Cell and Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic (FRCMA) Det Pax Innovation Team are exploring the use of additive manufacturing for Sailor Flight Deck Gear (FDG). FDG is composed of high-use and high-failure components. Limited space and budgets call for a way to replenish these stocks without having to replace entire units or assemblies. AM tech can be used to create replacement FDG components on an as needed replacement basis. Additionally, the 3D printers that would be utilized for FDG fabrication (Desktop Polymer 3D Printers) are already in usethroughout the fleet and onboard several carriers.


Many small arms support components are traditionally manufactured from multiple welded machined and sheet metal pieces. Misalignment of the pieces and/or warping during welding can result in fit issues, impacting use of the overall system. However, by using 3D printing, Powder Bed Fusion (PBF), and other AM techniques, Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division can resolve many of these performance issues and reduce lead-time on the MK93 stow lock from 60-90+ days to just 5-10 days - enabling a faster end-product turnaround time to support warfighters.


A large quantity of plastic waste is produced onboard Navy ships. The current waste management process is to compress plastic waste into pucks, which occupy significant storage space and must be stored until the ship docks. In 1998, the Navy produced about 1.9 million pounds of plastic discs at sea. The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Innovation Cell and Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic (FRCMA) Det Pax Innovation Team aim to create a process for taking plastic waste material on board ships and recycling specific materials into 3D printable filament. The filament could be used for a multitude of parts and would be applicable to all Navy ships.


Doorway parts on Navy ships often deform and break under the fatigue of frequent use of the door latch, similar to the way a paper clip breaks when it is bent too many times. The current solution to this issue involves over-tightening the latch handle (dog) assembly, making it difficult to secure the door and causing premature wear. The 3D printed latch handle spring clip developed by Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Combat Direction Systems Activity (CDSA) Dam Neck performs the same function as the existing dog assembly, but with greater material toughness and the advantage of shipboard on-demand printing for replacement. The 3D printer utilized for the spring clip can even embed parts with carbon fiber, fiberglass, or Kevlar.


On March 22, Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) site Sigonella's Fuel Team, led by their Fuels Officer, successfully operated a new hydrant system to refill a C-17 aircraft. This repair effort took extensive teamwork involving personnel from NAVSUP Energy, NAVSUP FLC Sigonella, Naval Air Station Sigonella, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Naval Facility Engineering Sigonella, and Defense Logistics Agency. The team conducted proper testing for environmental compliance, and was followed by a comprehensive training effort.

Additive manufacturing has fundamentally changed the process of iterating innovative solutions across Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY). For example, challenges surrounding submarine repair and overhaul operations have been solved through AM applications, including 3D printed tooling, test equipment, fixtures, and molds that are uniquely designed to address specific needs. Furthermore, innovative ideas are developed in-house by the user, and parts are re-printable at the click of a button.


Sealants on top-side fasteners help to protect the inside of ships from corrosion and keep fasteners in good condition for removal and re-use. The current application of sealant usually conforms to the standard of "The Bigger the Glob, the Better the Job" - a less-than optimal solution. This issue and others can be resolved by the use of Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme Division's (NSWCPHD) 3D printed anti-corrosion bolt head caps. Among other benefits, the AM bolt head caps increase the lifespan of protected fasteners, reduce the incidence of corrosion-seized fasteners, and are easy to remove yet durable enough to last years.


SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific (SSCPAC) is exploring new manufacturing methods to dramatically reduce the lead time of the VPX Chassis, a production dip brazed airborne chassis. Currently, production lead time for the chassis is 26 weeks. But SSCPAC's AM concept build can reduce this time to just 2-5 weeks.


An estimated 11,500 visitors participated in three days of seminars and demonstrations by more than 290 exhibiting companies and organizations during the 2017 Sea-Air-Space Exposition, which came to a close April 5. Held at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, the U.S. Navy League-sponsored exposition highlighted the latest maritime-related technologies and solutions in the largest maritime exposition in the U.S. Acting Secretary of the Navy the Honorable Sean Stackley highlighted the value of partnership and innovation by remembering the Doolittle Raid of World War II.

After the loss of aircraft nose gear led to a controlled hard landing onboard the USS Bataan, Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) depot level repair squadron designed and manufactured repair parts using additive manufacturing tools -- with just a one-week turnaround. Repair support is one application of FRCE's many AM capabilities, which also include a mobile fabrication laboratory (or "fab lab"), rapid prototypes, form/fit models, and large format polymer printers for large part fabrication. As a Federal Laboratory, FRCE has also entered into cooperative research and development agreements with industry partners to research new AM materials and processes.


The teletype cartridge, used in the Fleet for many years, is no longer being produced by the original equipment manufacturer. Fortunately, Naval Surface Warfare Center Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) has been able to successfully reproduce the cartridge via 3D modeling and additive manufacturing techniques. As a result, a key component that would otherwise have been impossible to procure - or prohibitively expensive to reproduce using traditional manfacturing - can now continue to enable warfighters to complete their mission on time and within budget.


SERMC's Mobile Fabrication Laboratory, or Fab Lab, provides a place for Sailors and Civilian personnel to improve their capabilities by exposing them to and training them on newer technology. It also allows Sailors and Civilians to be able to convert their innovative ideas into designs and rapid prototypes that could be certified for wider fleet use.


A common trend for the TS-10 Nitrogen Purge Kit E12572E - utilized by DoD maintenance activities to repair and test night vision devices and optics equipment - is the failure of the handle, which is not procurable. This forces equipment owners to purchase an entire E12572E at a cost of $811 each. But with minimal training and an inexpensive consumer grade 3D printer, Marines with the 2d Maintenance Battalion were able to reverse engineer and design replacement handles, resulting in a significant cost avoidance.


Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Panama City Division has significantly reduced the cost and lead time of a mine detecting system using in-house additive manufacturing technology. The AN/AQS-24 Mine Detecting Set had multiple parts with extensive lead times and costs. As a result, components including the Forward and Aft Fairings, and Horizontal and Vertical Stabilizer Wings were identified and selected for in-house production (vice purchased from contractor). CAD models were generated and parts were additively manufactured with a polymer as a pattern for the silicone molding process.


A U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) team leveraged additive manufacturing to develop the next generation of hydrogen fuel cells for unmanned systems. Additive manufacturing allows for rapid prototyping of new designs so they can be examined without the expense and time of traditional manufacturing, and one-piece, hollow construction not attainable by other manufacturing techniques.


Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Panama City Division's miniature, light-weight regulator successfully demonstrates that a pressure vessel of standard or exotic material can be produced using additive manufacturing, and opens the door to additional high pressure applications. Designed for 5,000 psi oxygen service, the Valve Integrated Pressure Reducer (VIPR) would have been very expensive to fabricate via traditional manufacturing methods. The design was subsequently modified to facilitate AM, and the final bodies were precision post-machined with tight tolerances and high quality surface finishes for high pressure gas sealing.

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