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Shipboard Additive Manufacturing (AM)/3D Printing


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Materials/Processes

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: Quality Metal Additive Manufacturing (QUALITY MADE) FNC

OBJECTIVE: Develop a NAVSEA qualified material and an Additive Manufacturing (AM) methodology to produce defect free parts and maintain geometric tolerances in a shipboard environment.

DESCRIPTION: The Naval fleet suffers from long lead times to obtain replacements for broken, worn, or otherwise failed parts. When underway, failed parts can only be replaced if the ship’s supply center, which has limited inventory space, has the parts in stock. AM will offer the potential to reduce supply chain issues through shipboard manufacturing of replacement parts on an as-needed basis. The only other method currently available to replace failed parts include very expensive ship and/or helicopter transport to at-sea vessels. AM creates parts through layer-by-layer deposition from a three dimensional Computer Aided Design (CAD) model thereby allowing a wide range of parts to be created using a single manufacturing system. Currently available Commercial Off the Shelf (COTs) AM systems deposit material using established methodologies and produce known dimensional tolerances. These AM methodologies are designed for printing on land, in controlled environments, and for purposes that do not require the material to meet strict Flame, Smoke, and Toxicity (FST) requirements.

In order for the fleet to take advantage of AM printing while underway, the challenges associated with transitioning AM to an at-sea environment must be overcome. These challenges include passing appropriate material requirements and mitigating adverse effects of the shipboard environment. Development of a closed loop feedback system would assist in ensuring dimensional part quality during ship motions.

All materials used aboard ship, regardless of the final purpose of the part, must pass NAVSEA FST requirements. Material and part certification will follow traditional land based certification routes and use authorization for only specific materials and components at sea. Previous testing has shown that currently available polymeric materials do not pass FST. The shipboard environment itself is also cause for concern. Recent Navy shipboard and laboratory testing of a material extrusion system attributes motion and a high humidity environment as experienced by an underway ship to part geometric variability and increased internal porosity in the raw material.

A successful innovation effort will include a manufacturing methodology that is not adversely affected by the shipboard environment (motion and humidity) and produces ready-to-use final component parts that pass NAVSEA FST requirements. Final products could include: (1) a material that can pass FST requirements and be used in existing AM systems, (2) an individual printer or retrofit designed for current printers that ensures dimensional quality of parts during build while under motion, and (3) a material storage and processing methodology for non-metallic materials that ensures material quality throughout the build regardless of the surrounding environment.

The ability to rapidly manufacture parts at sea will increase the Navy’s ability to replace failed components in a timely fashion, reduce long lead times on replacement parts, mitigate issues with part obsolescence, and eliminate spare part inventory issues.

PHASE I: The company will develop an Shipboard Additive Manufacturing (AM)/3D Printing methodology that meets the requirements as outlined in the topic description. The company will demonstrate the feasibility of the concept in meeting Navy needs and will establish that the concept can be feasibly developed into a useful product for the Navy. Material testing and analytical modeling will establish feasibility. Phase I Option, if awarded, would include the initial layout and capabilities description to build the unit in Phase II.

PHASE II: Based on the results of Phase I and the Phase II statement of work (SOW), the company will develop a Shipboard Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing prototype for evaluation. The prototype will be evaluated to determine its capability in meeting the performance goals defined in the Phase II development plan and the Navy requirements for the AM methodology. System performance will be demonstrated through prototype evaluation and testing over the required range of shipboard motion parameters and environmental conditions. Evaluation results will be used to refine the prototype into an initial design that will be delivered to the Navy. The company will prepare a Phase III development plan to transition the technology to Navy use.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: The company will be expected to support the Navy in transitioning the Shipboard Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing technology for Navy use. The company will develop an AM methodology for evaluation to determine its effectiveness in an operational environment onboard a LPD 17 Class ship. The company will support the Navy for test and validation to certify and qualify the system for Navy use underway. The demonstration on a surface vessel while underway is for motion mitigation. A developed AM closed loop feedback system will assist in ensuring dimensional part quality in applications other than under motion and will thereby benefit other industries (medical, industrial, and scientific communities). Environmentally controlled material storage will also increase the number of areas that AM can be utilized beyond shipboard.


    • B. Stucker, University of Louisville, “Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Technology Introduction and Business Implications”. Frontiers of Engineering 2011: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2011 Symposium/ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING.


    • J.-P. Kruth, M.C. Leu, T. Nakagawa, “Progress in Additive Manufacturing and Rapid Prototyping”, CIRP Annals - Manufacturing Technology, Volume 47, Issue 2, 1998, Pages 525-540, ISSN 0007-8506,


    • Sharon L. N. Ford, (2014), “Additive Manufacturing Technology: Potential Implications for U.S. Manufacturing Competitiveness” September 2014. Retrieved from:


    • ASTM E162 – 15, “Standard Test Method for Surface Flammability of Materials Using a Radiant Heat Energy Source”, Retrieved from:


    • ASTM E662 – 15, “Standard Test Method for Specific Optical Density of Smoke Generated by Solid Materials”, Retrieved from:


  • NAVSEA DESIGN DATA SHEETS, DDS-078-1, (2004) “Composite Materials, Surface Ships, Topside Structural and Other Topside Applications - Fire Performance Requirements”, Copies of these documents are available from Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command, ATT

KEYWORDS: Additive Manufacturing; printing parts at sea; 3D printing; rapid prototyping; material development; FST requirements

  • TPOC-1: Benjamin Bouffard
  • Phone: 301-227-5135
  • Email:
  • TPOC-2: Jennifer Wolk
  • Phone: 703-555-5555
  • Email:

Questions may also be submitted through DoD SBIR/STTR SITIS website.

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