Following the news that the US Navy will install 3D-printed components on its submarines starting this year, James Marques, Associate Analyst at GlobalData Aerospace, Defence and Security, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:
‘That the Navy is using 3D-printed parts for submarines, including the new Columbia-class, is a huge milestone for the technology. There are incredibly stringent standards in place for the materials used in submarine construction, as it is one of the most complex and risk-sensitive military engineering projects.
‘Printing components will boost supply to pick up shortfalls in the submarine industrial base, particularly around processes such as casting and fitting. GobalData analysis reveals that the US is in a strong position domestically, with General Electric, Boeing and Raytheon collectively owning over 1,500 patents in 3D printing.
‘A shift towards additive manufacturing will also disrupt the market by introducing new opportunities for industrial cooperation and sub-contracting. The US Navy has stated its intention to pair existing vendors without printing capabilities with SMEs that can.
‘Expanding the use of 3D printing in naval shipbuilding will require some changes in the way navies approve material use and standards for their platforms, but the potential payoffs are increased availability for vessels in the fleet and a long-term reduction in operations and maintenance costs. The US Navy is looking at its next-generation submarines with additive manufacturing in mind, and this trend is spreading: the Royal Australian Navy is one of many to recently partner with industry to explore 3D printing for ship components.’