The US Navy’s Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) has been installed with the first permanent metal three-dimensional (3D) printer.

The installation is a joint initiative of the US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Technology Office and Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic.

The equipment installed aboard Bataan includes a Phillips Additive Hybrid system, which comprises a laser metal wire deposition head, called Meltio3D, integrated with a Haas TM-1 computer numerical control mill.

Together, Meltio3D and Haas TM-1 deliver subtractive and additive manufacturing (AM) capabilities within one system to help increase efficiency and reduce waste, compared to conventional machining.

NAVSEA chief engineer rear admiral Jason Lloyd said: “These printers have the ability to help the Navy overcome both obsolescence issues for ships and systems that have service lives measured in decades and directly contribute to enhanced operational availability of our systems and ships.”

The new system can print 316L stainless steel, which is a prevalent material in ship systems.

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It will further provide cost-effective industrial-level manufacturing capabilities to the sailors to print systems’ specific parts.

Apart from the 3D printer, NAVSEA engineers have also installed a second 3D printer onboard the Wasp-class vessel to produce polymer (plastic) components.

The second printer will allow crewmembers to print any of the 300 NAVSEA-developed AM technical data packages to support the manufacturing of the ship’s part.

Naval Surface Force Atlantic commander rear admiral Brendan McLane said: “The introduction of AM into naval operations supports readiness and self-sufficiency.”

The process of 3D printing or AM allows the joining of different materials to make parts from 3D model data available layer on layer. It is different from the subtractive and formative manufacturing methodologies.