Navy approves first 3-D printed metal piece to be used on ship; will be tested on Norfolk aircraft carrier

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - The Navy has approved the first metal part created by 3-D printing to be used on a ship.

The prototype drain strainer orifice will be installed on the Norfolk-based USS Harry S. Truman early next year. It will be tested for one-year and then removed for analysis and inspection by Naval Sea Systems Command.

The piece is part of the steam system and allows for the drainage of water from a steam line while in use.

Newport News Shipbuilding proposed installing the prototype on an aircraft carrier for test and evaluation. They've worked with the Navy to adopt additive manufacturing of metal components for nuclear-powered ships.

The process is highly digital and involved depositing metal powder, layer by layer, to create parts that can potentially replace valves, housings, and brackets.

“This is a watershed moment in our digital transformation, as well as a significant step forward in naval and marine engineering,” said Charles Southall, Vice President of Engineering and Design at Newport News Shipbuilding.  “We are committed to partnering with the Navy to ensure that collectively, we are investing in every opportunity to improve and advance the way we design and build great ships for the Navy.”

"This install marks a significant advancement in the Navy's ability to make parts on demand and combine NAVSEA's strategic goal of on-time delivery of ships and submarines while maintaining a culture of affordability," said Rear Admiral Lorin Selby, NAVSEA Chief Engineer and Deputy Commander for Ship Design, Integration, and Naval Engineering.  "By targeting CVN 75 [USS Harry S. Truman], this allows us to get test results faster, so-if successful-we can identify additional uses of additive manufacturing for the fleet."

While the Navy has been using 3-D printing for several years, the use for metal parts is still being developed and final requirements are still under review.

The process could lead to cost savings for the Navy and reduced production schedules for ships.