First 3-D Printer Ship Model

Press Release
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
3-D Printer Model USNS Comfort: Photo credit NSWC

Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Carderock complete a fabricated model of the hospital ship 'USNS Comfort'.

The state-of-the-art 3-D printer, which is one of four in the United States, provides Carderock with the capability to deliver large, complex ship models. Additionally, the ship models require less assembly time and can be fabricated unattended, 24 hours a day.

"3D printing technology is currently being used in industry to produce parts, structures and models for various applications," said NSWC Carderock engineer Francisco "Paco" Rodriguez. "For more than a century, Carderock engineers have been at the forefront of technology in delivering ship models in order to build the Navy's future fleet. This next generation technology provides Carderock unprecedented capability to deliver fabricated ship models faster and at a more affordable cost for the Navy."

NSWC Carderock engineers and technicians upload computer-aided design (CAD) drawings of a ship model into the 3-D printer. As the printing process begins an epoxy resin is exposed to ultraviolet light, changing its state to a solid. A wiper applies a coat of the liquid to a flat surface on the machine and the ultraviolet laser then traces the shape of the part to be constructed. Once solidified, the wiper continuously applies additional coats of epoxy until the ship model is completed.

"The model of the T-AH 20 was created within 25 days," said Rodriguez. "Prior to the installation of this 3-D printer, we would have conducted four different builds in the previous machine followed by attaching all of the components together, resulting in more than double the time to reach completion. Not only was less time spent building, but now the model will have fewer seams than before."

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