The United States Navy is beginning to realize just how strong of a resource 3D printing can be, as their fleet of ships is an aging one. More and more often, Naval ships are breaking down due to their longtime use. Because these warships are old, there are many cases where the parts that need replacing aren’t manufactured anymore. By using 3D scanning and 3D printing, however, they are able to custom-design replacement parts.
This doesn’t occur with just the Navy – or even the military in general. Aging aircraft, classic automobiles and other things similar to these are all beginning to use 3D scanning and 3D printing to recreate old parts that are no longer produced. BMW has actually used 3D printing to revive Elvis Presley’s old BMW 507.
What makes 3D scanning and 3D printing so unique compared to traditional manufacturing methods, is the ability to quickly acquire 3D CAD files with a 3D scanner that can be reverse engineered and 3D printing in just a matter of hours.
“For example, if there is a Navy aircraft that has an issue, they can print the parts online and send them to a ship at sea,” instead of waiting longer to search for an out-of-stock part or refabricate it using a slower method, says Ade Makinde, a principal engineer for additive technologies at GE Global Research, who is leading the project.
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Top image:In the Navy: Sailors and Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit scrub down the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island. The ship is the Navy’s first vessel powered by hybrid propulsion. Image credit: Navy Media Content Services.