The US Navy has equipped the USS Essex, an amphibious assault ship, with a 3D printer.
According to Breaking Defense, this is not an experiment. The unnamed 3D printer is now a permanent fixture. It’s intended use is to produce small plastic items that would otherwise have to be pre-stocked before leaving port. Examples cited include an oil tank cap, model planes for movement planning, etc. No 3D printed parts are intended for use in actual airframes, however.
They’re hoping to find out how well the printer operates given the harsher conditions at sea: tippy motion, engine vibrations, etc. 3D printers are not normally subjected to such abuse.
We’re not certain what kind of 3D printer is involved, but we strongly suspect it is either a Stratasys uPrint or a small Fortus device, since they’re printing strong parts that probably should be ABS.
If this works out, we’d expect to see similar devices installed on all ships of a certain size. But here’s the most interesting aspect: if the crew becomes accustomed to having a machine on hand that can print things for them, they may demand increasing functionality that might be required in remote locations. This can only be good – imagine the US Navy pushing the requirements and capabilities of 3D printing suppliers.
Via Breaking Defense