NEWPORT NEWS, VA—Newport News Shipbuilding has partnered with 3D Systems to develop metal additive manufacturing technologies. The goal of the joint effort is to revolutionize how the next generation of warships is assembled.

The initiative is part of a technological transformation underway at Newport News called integrated digital shipbuilding.

“This is a game-changing and disruptive technology for our industry,” says Charles Southall, vice president of engineering and design at Newport News Shipbuilding. “In addition to our ongoing digital shipbuilding efforts, 3D printing could transform our design standards.

“This technology has the potential to be one of the most significant manufacturing innovations in our industry since we began building nuclear-powered ships in the 1950s,” claims Southall. “One of our goals is to provide leadership to our supplier base that will help accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing within our industry, which may improve efficiencies and quality.

“The partnership represents a significant step forward in the fabrication of components and material for future warships,” explains Southall. “Compared to traditional manufacturing methods that involve the conversion of raw materials into a finished product through subtractive processes, such as cutting or grinding metal, additive manufacturing involves the layer-by-layer fabrication of raw materials into a finished product.”

As part of the joint development agreement, 3D Systems recently installed a ProX DMP 320 high-performance metal additive manufacturing system at Newport News Shipbuilding. The state-of-the-art machine is capable of making three-dimensional, marine-based alloy parts for castings or other fabricated parts, such as valves, housings and brackets.

“3D Systems is pleased to play an integral role in transforming the naval shipbuilding industry,” says Kevin McAlea, executive vice president and general manager of metals and healthcare at 3D Systems. “[Our] expertise in metal 3D printing technology will bring new digitally enhanced geometries to Newport News Shipbuilding, enabling higher performing warship components and, ultimately, more cost-effective parts delivery to the U.S. Navy.”