Navy wants 100 additive manufacturing-produced sub parts fielded by year's end

By Nick Wilson / April 10, 2024 at 12:32 PM

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- The Navy aims to increase the number of parts produced through metallic additive manufacturing and equipped on submarines from "a couple" today to "near 100" by year's end, Executive Director of Strategic Submarines Matt Sermon said at the Navy League's Sea-Air-Space conference.

As the sea service looks to improve submarine maintenance rates, it is moving to advance additive manufacturing capabilities and develop expedited processes to create and equip 3D-printed parts on submarines.

“We are progressing. We have permanently installed parts on submarines now -- a couple,” Sermon said today. “I’d like to have hundreds. we have a couple. I think we'll be near 100 by the end of this year and we've got a bunch of them in progress.”

In one recent instance, a government and industry team used AM to produce a replacement for a ballistic missile submarine valve that had previously been cannibalized six times during maintenance availabilities. Through a new, expedited process, the team was able to scan, print, equip and test this valve in the span of nine weeks.

The legacy supply system would have taken 23 or 24 months to deliver the same part, Sermon said. “Probably nine weeks after we identified the problem, we had stopped a multiyear cannibalization chain,” he added.

While Sermon said the Navy is making great strides in the maturation of AM, he acknowledged the technology is still limited in its scope and application.

The Navy is only pursuing accelerated AM processes for “low-severity” submarine components, meaning parts that are not exposed to ocean pressures or to the heat of the boats’ nuclear reactors. But the service will continue maturating its additive manufacturing capabilities across key materials, Sermon said.