HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) division, located in Virginia, USA, and General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB), headquartered in Groton, Connecticut, USA, have reported progress in integrating Additive Manufacturing technology into the shipbuilding process for nuclear-powered submarines. The use of certified AM parts has the potential to expedite the construction and delivery of submarines to the US Navy by reducing lead times for critical components.
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The companies have focused on making marine-based alloys, like copper-nickel, available and deployable as an alternative to traditional copper-nickel castings. Recently, a copper-nickel deck drain assembly was identified as a potential candidate for Additive Manufacturing. NNS collaborated with shipbuilding partner GDEB and supplier AMMCON to develop a model and proof of concept. As a result, NNS successfully produced a copper-nickel deck drain part. AMMCON will handle the final machining and assembly of the part before it is installed on the Virginia-class submarine Oklahoma (SSN 802), which will be delivered by NNS.
“As a leader in Additive Manufacturing for shipbuilding, we are aggressively looking for opportunities to find ways to incorporate this technology into mainstream shipbuilding,” stated Dave Bolcar, NNS vice president of engineering and design. “This collaborative project leverages authorisations made by the Navy that streamline requirements for low-risk Additive Manufacturing parts. It is possible due to the foresight and longer-term development efforts by our engineers to deploy Additive Manufacturing marine alloys for shipbuilding.”
“Our submarine design and engineering teams are focused on working with our supply and construction partners to speed the adoption of innovative technologies,” shared Megan Roberts, vice president of quality, waterfront engineering, radiological controls and fleet support for Electric Boat. “These first efforts to install additive-manufactured parts on submarines demonstrate the technology’s potential to dramatically reduce lead times for critical components, which will enable us to deliver more submarines faster, supporting the Navy’s fleet demands.”
“We are honoured to contribute to the ongoing success of the Virginia-class submarine program in this innovative way,” AMMCON President Darrell Grow added. “As a longtime supplier for nuclear-powered submarines, our team understands the importance of these national security assets and remains committed to delivering the critical parts needed for their delivery.”
This new development in Additive Manufacturing builds on HII’s announcement in March that NNS has been certified and approved as a vendor for Additive Manufacturing components on Naval Sea Systems (NAVSEA) platforms. The use of this highly digitised process has the potential to result in cost savings and shorter production schedules for naval ships.