Navy, Going Big on 3D Printing Next Year, Looking for Industry Ideas


3D printing 2The Office of Naval Research will meet with 200 industry reps later this month in advance of the Navy’s deep dive into additive manufacturing — aka 3D printing.

The Navy wants to give its ships at sea the capability of making parts as needed, something that not only will come in handy in emergency but would preclude the need to carry many spare parts that — ideally — never have to be used.

In September, the Navy expects to formally ask for proposals and will use the upcoming July 15 Industry Day to brief industry officials about what it’s looking for and get them to think about how to improve existing 3D printing technology, ONR said in an announcement Monday.

“We’re developing quality AM [additive manufacturing] metal processes for naval applications with titanium, aluminum and stainless-steel alloys,” said Program Manager Billy Short. “Ideally, we would one day like to see additive manufacturing machines built that could be placed on vessels and perform well even in the toughest sea conditions, but that is another technical leap beyond this current program.”

But ONR envisions the advances benefiting ground and aviation assets, as well, and Short said ONR will be looking for new ideas for the additive manufacture of critical metal-cast parts such as impellers, engine mounts and transmission housings.

Among the challenges the Navy faces for shipboard 3D manufacturing is materials storage.

“There are significant safety concerns,” Lt. Ben Kohlman of the Chief of Naval Operations’ Rapid Innovation Cell noted during a discussion of the technology last year. “The powder that’s used in the aluminum or titanium is highly flammable.”

All the briefings will be unclassified, but industry reps taking part must be U.S. citizens, according to the announcement.

The event will be held at the Stonegate 2 Conference Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

Additional information and registration may be found here.

— Bryant Jordan can be reached at

About the Author

Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is a reporter for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.
  • FASnipeHT2

    Plastics first. Lots of smaller parts can be made and replaced easily. Titanium might be a stretch?

    • miles

      Their are already Commercially available 3D printers that can use Titanium, Steal, Aluminum, Inconel that can make components for Aerospace/Energy sectors.

      • miles

        Sorry Steel.

      • matt

        yeah their are those machines but(and this is a big but), the government wont do it because the material cant be certified what they are printing/machining. I work in cnc manufacturing, and the place i work for does DOD work. And they are ALL about their paper work. Gotta have accountability. you cant account for some of the environmental aspects(ie. pitch and yaw of a ship, air quality,power) of it. Easier to make it in a controlled environment like a base or third party.

  • wtpworrier

    Next thing you know, we’ll have replicators….

    • Bernard

      3d printers pretty much are. They won’t be Star Trek, but they will be amazing nonetheless.

      • rtsy

        They are nothing close. If you could take a finished product and turn it back into powder to make a future part you’d start along the track of a real replicator.

  • dirtylodown

    Thats hard to do when you are on Windows XP. Do you even have drivers for the printer?

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  • Barnett

    The Canadian navy has already spent time developing powdered materials more readily used on navy platforms. These materials, mostly nickel copper alloys are not an explosion hazard. Using AM to repair components versus re creating seems to be a more logical first step.