The crew of USS Bataan (LHD 5), a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship in the United States Navy, supported by the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), has additively manufactured and replaced a sprayer plate used in a de-ballast air compressor (DBAC) while at sea. Completed in just five days, this was the first time the crew had used the ships permanently installed metal Additive Manufacturing machine under these conditions, and enabled the ship to mitigate the time spent obtaining a replacement assembly.
“This success story shows the self-sufficiency we can achieve when our Sailors are provided with cutting-edge technology,” shared Rear Adm Joseph Cahill, commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic (SURFLANT). “The impact technology like this can have on operational readiness, particularly in a combat environment where logistics capabilities will be challenged, is critically important.”
The metal sprayer plate is used to force pressurised air through saltwater tanks and discharge the accumulated saltwater. These tanks are filled to lower a ship’s draft for amphibious operations.
“Rapidly learning how to utilise AM shipboard and scaling these capabilities is a key enabler to us sustaining our platforms and weapons systems,” commented Rear Adm Jason Lloyd, deputy commander for NAVSEA’s Naval Systems Engineering & Logistics Directorate. “I am excited to see how Bataan embraced this technology to enhance readiness at the point of need.”
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The AM machine was installed as a joint effort between SURFLANT and the NAVSEA Technology Office. It includes the Phillips Additive Hybrid system, which integrates a Laser Metal Deposition (Material Extrusion) build head from Meltio3D onto a Haas TM-1 computer numerical control mill. The Haas TM-1 platform has been proven to operate reliably in an afloat environment aboard several aircraft carriers. By integrating the Meltio3D deposition head with the Haas TM-1, the system provides both additive and subtractive manufacturing capabilities, which increases efficiency and reduces waste when compared to typical machining.
The repair effort was led by Machinery Repairman First Class Mike Hover. He began by creating a computer-aided design (CAD) model of a sprayer plate, using a functional sprayer plate from one of the ship’s other DBAC systems as a reference. After creating the preliminary CAD model, Hover utilised NAVSEA’s ‘Apollo Lab’ to obtain engineering and fleet support and training.
In 2018, NAVSEA established the ‘Apollo Lab’ to provide engineers with better support for forward-deployed sailors. The lab is led by NAVSEA field activity Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, Johns Hopkins University Applied Research Laboratory (JHU APL), and Building Momentum. It provides distributed, reach-back engineering support for Additive Manufacturing equipment through civilian engineers. Additionally, the Apollo Lab designs AM components that sailors can produce while at sea to support the fleet.
Bryan Kessel, a mechanical engineer at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, refined the CAD file. He worked with JHU APL to develop software instructions that guide the operation of the metal Additive Manufacturing machine. Kessel then securely transferred those instructions back to the ship, where the sprayer plate was produced and installed.
NAVSEA is the largest of the Navy’s six system commands and is responsible for the procurement, maintenance, and modernisation of ships, submarines, and systems for the US Navy. NAVSEA’s Technology Office is leading multiple areas of research and development, including the evaluation of Additive Manufacturing equipment under shipboard conditions. These evaluations should ensure that current and future shipboard implementations of this equipment are capable of fabricating parts repeatedly and reliably, thus allowing sailors to address an increasing number of applications.