Getting your hands on a spare part for your ship when you’re out at sea isn’t at easy as driving to your local hardware store. You better have the supplies on board when you set sail or wing it until you make port and can find the required part. Sailors aboard the USS Harry S. Truman have found another way to go about this, they’re using a 3D printer to actually make the parts that they need out at sea.
The United States Navy has hooked up two ships, Truman and USS Kearsarge, with 3D printers. These miniature fabrication labs enable sailors to create custom parts as and when required.
Cmdr. Brady Drennan explains that the aim behind this exercise is to be more self-sufficient during deployments, pointing out the fact that once the ship leaves the pier it effectively leaves behind all tools and equipment. If sailors need to have something bulky manufactured they can design the part as per their specifications in the lab and then have it printed ashore and delivered to the vessel.
These 3D printers were deployed on the ships last month and within weeks, sailors had started finding them to be very useful. One of the parts that sailors printed out was a wrench and custom dust caps, where were designed by a sailor who grew frustrated with an oil cup on a machine that was too small for a funnel.
Officials on these two ships say that most of the ideas for putting the printer to use are coming from sailors who will no doubt put these “fab labs’ to good use, the labs contain a desktop computer, two 3D printers and a large monitor with wireless keyboard and mouse.