The US Navy has 3D printed an entire submersible vehicle!
It’s a prototype developed by their Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), who devised the submarine. It’s apparently capable of carrying US Navy Seals to, to somewhere.
Of course, the 3D printed part is the hull itself, as the remainder of the interior outfitting will likely involve traditional processes and parts – although it’s possible there may be additional 3D printed parts there, too.
But I believe this is a bit of a milestone: we have 3D printed a complete submarine hull that is intended to carry humans. 3D printing technology has obviously advanced sufficiently in order to literally trust the passengers’ lives with it, as a hull failure is essentially catastrophic in a submarine.
The hull was produced at ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, as a joint project between the US Department of Defense, the US Department of Energy and several academic institutions. It’s made from composite materials, being 3D printed in only four short weeks in six sections that were assembled after printing. This is impressive as this 10m vehicle is massive.
They say it is also: “The Navy’s Largest 3D Printed Asset”, which says something about the magnitude of this project.
Evidently this project demonstrated a very significant time and cost advantage.
They typically spend USD$600,000 on a project like this, whereas this method of production cost only a tenth of that and took far less time as well.
The US Navy expects to 3D print a number of other experimental vehicles using similar techniques in the future.