and rolling. So the Navy is studying how those factors
affect the AM process at sea. But the environment can
be an advantage.
“Additive manufacturing allows us to come up
with different ways to make some of the assets we use
today,” said Dr. Ryan Kincer, a materials engineer at
NSWC Panama City, Fla.
Panama City is experimenting with adjustments to
the “recipe” to make disposable unmanned underwater
vehicles that eventually dissolve in seawater.
“We can change the amount of polyhydroxylalkinate
added to the material to degrade faster or slower, depending on how long we want it to last. We don’t need to
recover it because the cost is so reasonable,” Kincer said.
Unlocking the Constraints
The method by which products have traditionally been
manufactured dictates how they are designed and maintained. The manufacturing processes used can limit how
fast you can build and test a prototype. That, in turn,
affects how a company can innovate and turn a new idea
or concept into a reality that is ready for market.
Finished products that used to be made at a factory
and shipped to a customer might now be more affordably
printed on demand at the point of use by the customer.
“Additive manufacturing unlocks the constraints,
and offers new ways to design, distribute and service
products. It allows an industrial system that gives you
complete process control, and allows you to connect a
continuous digital thread from concept to finished part.
It’s not just a toy or a tool for experimentation,” said
Aaron Frankel, senior director of marketing for manufacturing engineering software products at Siemens PLM
Software, Plano, Texas.
Siemens, for example, offers a system that integrates design, planning and construction that is fully
compliant with manufacturing operating systems.
Frankel said there are many disconnected applications for specific engineering specialties. Different
computer-aided design and engineering systems, print
software and printers can be made to work with each
other, but something may be lost in translation.
“If we convert files from one software to another,
we disconnect the digital thread and can lose fidelity,
and the ability to manage the workflow,” he said.
There are challenges. Parts milled from forgings
have different qualities than printed parts made from
“We’re seeing deformation of printed parts based
on different thermal properties. We need to compensate for that in the design,” he said.
Frankel said broken or damaged parts can be digitally scanned to produce a model and then print the
“You don’t need outside tooling,” he said.
Machined parts remove metal from a block to shape
a part, so the part is limited by the shape of the block.
AM removes that restraint allowing the manufacture
of shapes that cannot be done using conventional
Dr. Daniel Henkel is research manager for additive
manufacturing and materials at the Commonwealth
Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) near
Petersburg, Va., an industrial applied research center.
According to Henkel, some parts are so complex, such
as those with very fine or non-linear internal channels
for cooling or fiber connectivity, they are sometimes
impossible to machine, but easy to do in AM.
“In just one build, we can make custom components or entire assemblies that can’t be done any other
way,” he said.
CCAM works with five Virginia universities. One of
the recent efforts is researching the corrosion of additive parts, an important factor in a marine environment.
“We’re working with the University of Virginia’s
Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering,
which is doing research with the Navy on corrosion of
additive parts,” Henkel said.
He said the university does not currently have the
“We’re going to do the additive manufacturing part
of the project here at CCAM, and they’re going to do the
corrosion testing. We don’t know how these materials
are going to corrode,” Henkel said. “It’s a different
grain structure and chemistry. We don’t know if they
will corrode similarly to conventional wrought metals.”
The first 3-D printer onboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier creates a
“Tru-Clip” in the fabrication lab aboard USS Harry S. Truman in the
Mediterranean Sea June 23, 2016. Tru-Clips were used as replace-
ments for hand-held radio clasps that were frequently breaking.