The US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) has integrated a 3D printer into the USS New Hampshire Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine.
The Markforged X7 field edition printer is a polymer-based system providing the vessel with highly-durable carbon fiber-reinforced nylon materials.
These materials will support unconventional repairs aboard the submarine, including electric enclosure installations and pipe leak maintenance, to increase the New Hampshire’s self-sustainment and forward deployment capabilities.
Markforged X7 Aboard USS New Hampshire
The Markforged X7 was developed by the NAVSEA Additive Manufacturing Research and Development Program (NAVSEA 05T) in partnership with the Naval Surface Warfare Centers Philadelphia and Cerderock, and Naval Undersea Warfare Center Newport.
The printer was selected for the New Hampshire due to its operational stability through a series of shipboard simulations.
“This system can be used to produce most of the currently approved Technical Data Packages that are available for Sailors on the Joint Technical Data Integration site,” NAVSEA 05T Program Manager Lewis Shattuck explained.
“These parts have been identified by NAVSEA engineers and the fleet to address a variety of needs including standard or preventative maintenance, temporary replacements, quality of life products, drill props, tools and fixturing.”
Increasing US Navy 3D Printers
The US Navy has equipped nine surface ships with 3D printers, including three aircraft carriers, and has introduced the solution on four submarines.
In 2022, the USS Bataan Wasp-class amphibious assault ship received a 3D printer that can produce 316L stainless steel.
“3D printers provide the opportunity for creative problem solving. These devices lower the barrier for component manufacturing, empowering sailors to take ownership of their repairs, and to think outside the box,” USS New Hampshire Commander Capt. Bennett Christman stated.
“Ingenuity and creative problem solving are core to our history as a submarine force. Fostering these values will pay dividends in the way Sailors approach all aspects of their jobs.”