HII partnership to explore 3D printing in naval shipbuilding

Huntington Ingalls Industries has announced a collaboration between its Newport News, Virginia-based shipbuilding division and 3D Systems to explore state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques – namely 3D printing and its adoption in naval shipbuilding.

It’s thought that 3D printing could revolutionize the way in which shipbuilders design and deliver the next generation of warships. The partnership also forms part of a significant transformation taking place at Newport News, known as Integrated Digital Shipbuilding.

“This is a game-changing and disruptive technology for our industry,” commented Charles Southall, Newport News’ Vice President of Engineering and Design. “In addition to our ongoing digital shipbuilding efforts, 3D printing could transform our design standards, and this technology has the potential to be one of the most significant manufacturing innovations in our industry since we began building nuclear-powered ships in the 1950s.”

3D Systems has now installed a ProX DMP 320 high performance metal additive manufacturing system at Newport News. The machine is capable of fabricating three-dimensional, marine-based alloy parts for castings or other components such as valves, housings and brackets.

“3D Systems is pleased to play an integral role in transforming the naval shipbuilding industry,” added Kevin McAlea, Executive Vice President and General Manager for Metals and Healthcare at 3D Systems. “The ProX DMP 320 printer system, combined with our team’s expertise in metal 3D printing technology, will bring new digitally enhanced geometries to Newport News Shipbuilding, enabling higher performing warship components and ultimately more efficient cost-effective parts delivery to the US Navy.”

Crucially, the partnership marks a significant next step in the fabrication of components and material for future warships. Compared to traditional manufacturing methods that involve the conversion of raw materials into a finished product through subtractive processes, such as cutting or grinding metal, additive manufacturing or 3D printing involves the layer-by-layer fabrication of raw materials into a finished product.

“One of our goals is to provide leadership to our supplier base that will help accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing within our industry, which may improve efficiencies and quality,” continued Southall. “We look forward to working with key technology leaders, such as 3D Systems, to help to break down technology adoption barriers and advance additive manufacturing in our industry and supply chain.”

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