3D Systems, Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA, is collaborating with Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding division to develop copper-nickel (CuNi) and nickel-copper (NiCu) alloys for Powder Bed Fusion (PBF) Additive Manufacturing. These new materials could allow Newport News Shipbuilding to additively manufacture parts that are currently traditionally cast, reducing lead times by up to 75% and improving supply chain efficiency.
According to 3D Systems, CuNi and NiCu alloys are ideal for marine applications due to their corrosion resistance. While parts produced with these metals possess high strength and toughness over a variety of temperatures, they are currently produced by traditional casting methods. This requires significantly long lead times – sometimes in excess of twelve months – and multiple suppliers. If these alloys were to be formulated for use with metal AM technologies, lead times for some of these parts could be reduced to a fraction of the traditional procurement time.
“Customer-centric innovation has been a driving force for 3D Systems since its founding,” stated Chuck Hull, co-founder, EVP, Chief Technology Officer, 3D Systems. “Through our ongoing collaboration with Newport News Shipbuilding, we have yet another opportunity to bring to bear our deep materials science and application engineering expertise – allowing our customers to maximise the power of Additive Manufacturing within their organisation. These new materials have the potential to redefine Newport News Shipbuilding’s innovation pipeline enabling them to more efficiently deliver high-quality parts.”
Through this material development effort, 3D Systems is working with Newport News Shipbuilding to select the alloy composition, design the process parameter experiments, and qualify parts that include tensile and other material testing. With these new materials, Newport News Shipbuilding will use metal AM to produce replacement parts for castings, as well as valves, housings, and brackets. After demonstrated successful use of these materials, 3D Systems anticipates the addition of the new alloys to its materials portfolio, addressing a breadth of applications where corrosion is a major concern, such as oil & gas production and refining, and utility energy production.
“We’re excited to continue our partnership with 3D Systems on these important shipbuilding alloys,” commented Dave Bolcar, vice president of engineering and design for Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries. “Over the past few years, our companies have collaborated to support the qualification of metal Additive Manufacturing technologies in order to build parts for naval warships and conducted research and development of a corrosion performance design guide for direct metal printing of a nickel-based alloy. We’re looking forward to expanding on these efforts by developing parameters that will allow us to further expand the use of additive manufacturing into our platforms, in order to improve both product quality, schedule, and performance for the fleet.”
3D Systems has contributed its Additive Manufacturing experience to the US Navy for decades, with its AM solutions being used for everything from aircraft parts to submersible components. In 2018, 3D Systems and Newport News Shipbuilding entered a joint development agreement to qualify metal AM technologies to build naval warships.
At the time, 3D Systems delivered and installed a ProX® DMP 320 – the predecessor to the company’s DMP Flex 350 – with the goal of moving portions of Newport News’ manufacturing process from traditional methods to additive, thus enhancing production rates of high accuracy parts with reduced waste, and reducing cost. Developing new marine alloys for Newport News’ unique applications needs will allow the company to continue expanding the role AM plays in its manufacturing workflow.