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SAS 2017: 3D printing meets swimmer delivery?

06th April 2017 - 16:00 by Scott Gourley in Washington, D.C.

SAS 2017: 3D printing meets swimmer delivery?

While at first glance, the US Navy's Optionally Manned Technology Demonstrator looks like an elongated Mk VIII SEAL delivery vehicle (SDV), the new tech demonstrator platform is more than just a new underwater delivery system.

The demonstrator platform emerged from the Department of the Navy's Print-a-thon technology programme, which included a 3-D printed model of a submersible vessel, produced by Naval Sea Systems Command Carderock's Disruptive Technology Lab. Based on the success of that effort, plans were developed to 3-D print the navy's first full scale hull form this year.

Carderock representatives displayed the full scale hull form at this week's Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition. Comparing the form to a standard Mk VIII SDV, they noted that the longer structure reflected a belief that the greater internal volume would allow for more technology demonstration, while the cross-section shape was also changed slightly to benefit the additive manufacturing process.

The 3-D printing was performed at Oak Ridge National Labs on the Big Area Additive Manufacturing System (BAAMs), based on a Cincinnati Incorporated Model 100 ALPHA.

The hull form was printed with a homogeneous blend of 70% ABS with 30% short chopped carbon fibre.

Emphasising that the carbon is part of the homogeneous blend and not focused in certain areas of the hull, developers also acknowledged the addition of a few aluminium elements for door glides and some other structural items.

Once the hull form was completed, the exterior of the submersible was 'finished' and covered with a self-levelling resin. Then the entire craft was painted in matt black.

Asked where the project might go from here, one Carderock representative said that near term efforts would focus on structural testing and analysis of the material / material characterisation.

'We don't know a whole lot about what this kind of material will do at this size,' he said. 'So we're hoping to do some studies and advanced learning on what is going on with it. And then we're going to continue to innovate through the design process to see what we can take it to next.'

He added, 'We have various people interested in using it and various communities throughout the Navy who want to use it for certain missions, and we're interfacing with them and trying to design it to those missions.'

The current transition timeline shows the platform in Carderock test facilities throughout FY18, followed by a possible fleet ready prototype in FY19 and UUV design and implementation in FY20.

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