Navy, Oak Ridge unveil first 3-D printed submarine hull

OAK RIDGE NATIONAL LABORATORY, Tenn. The U.S. Navy recently unveiled the military's first 3D-printed submarine hull, a joint project between the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF), the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), and the U.S. Navy’s Disruptive Technology Lab.

The submarine, called the Optionally Manned Technology Demonstrator, was printed on the Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine at ORNL's MDF.

The 30-foot-long proof-of-concept submersible hull is made of six carbon-fiber-composite sections. Future iterations of the design could be quickly printed to deploy logistics capabilities and when and where needed.

Image courtesy U.S. Navy/DoE.

According to the DoE, a traditional SEAL Delivery Vehicle costs between $600,000 and $800,000 and takes between three and five months to manufacture; in contrast, said the DoE, this sub was fabricated for as little as $60,000 and shortened the actual production time to just several days.

The DoE reports that it is working on the next phase of the project: creating a second, watertight version of the hull that will be tested in the wave pool at NSWC Carderock, an elite Navy testing facility that mimics the most compromising conditions that ships and submarines could encounter in the open ocean. Fleet-capable prototypes could be introduced as early as 2019.

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