SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Southwest Regional Maintenance Center (SWRMC) delivered an order of 3D printed parts to USS Lake Erie (CG 70) April 11.
The delivery included 22 sets of fuse box covers, including installation brackets and bolts. This marks the first execution and delivery of parts through SWRMC’s additive manufacturing (AM) request process.
“SWRMC’s ability to deliver orders of 3D printed parts to ships is a high value-added capability to the support we provide to ships in availabilities,” said Capt. David Hart, commanding officer, SWRMC. “These innovative solutions have the ability to augment traditional manufacturing methods and provide a cost savings to the Fleet.”
The idea for the fuse box cover was identified by Petty Officer 2nd Class Joe Smith, a Sailor on USS Makin Island (LHD 8), who noticed how easily the fuses and fuse holders could be damaged due to the location of the fuse box. Because damage to the fuses could cause interruptions to communications equipment or the electronics cabinet’s blower assembly, Smith had an idea for a cover that he proposed to the AM Team.
SWRMC’S AM Team, including Cesar Molina and Mark Huang, took the idea and developed a 3D printed cover to protect the fuses and fuse holders from accidental damage. They also developed installation instructions to accompany the ordered part allowing the ship to install the cover without SWRMC support.
“I strongly believe that introducing and training our military and civilian personnel on the 3D printing technology will help them find simple and almost instant solutions to big problems that we encounter every day on our ships and at our facilities,” Molina said.
Building a part through AM begins with a build plate, without any materials present, and generates a finished product via the addition of material layers. While AM encompasses many different types of layering, Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is the most common method, and is used at SWRMC. In FDM, a spool of material is fed into a printer head that heats the material and deposits thin strands of the material onto the build plate, forming a layer. Once the layer is finished, the build plate lowers and the process is repeated layer by layer until the part is complete. When complete, the part is removed and ready for use as a replacement part, eliminating the need to procure a new part.
Lake Erie placed the order for these parts after seeing SWRMC’s informational material on the fuse box cover and experiencing firsthand the impact of damaged fuses and the repair process. SWRMC has this type of information for all parts and tools printed in their Mobile Innovation Center (MIC), and is working to share it with the ships on the waterfront at Naval Base San Diego. Lake Erie Sailors reached out to Molina via their Ship Superintendent to place the order with delivery requested prior to leaving for deployment.
SWRMC is working on additional AM projects for future ship installation, including an order from Makin Island for the fuse box covers.
SWRMC is meeting its mission to provide superior ship maintenance, modernization, technical support, and training for the Pacific Fleet.
For more information on SWRMC please visit https://www.navsea.navy.mil/Home/RMC/SWRMC.
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