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CHIPS Articles: Undersea Warfare Center’s Additive Manufacturing Center is Open for Business

Undersea Warfare Center’s Additive Manufacturing Center is Open for Business
By Nathanael T. Miller, Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division, Keyport - May 12, 2020
The Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division, Keyport’s additive manufacturing center has remained open for business during the Coronavirus pandemic through innovative thinking and creative adjustments to the work center.

Additive manufacturing (AM) allows for the rapid development and production of items ranging from personal protective equipment (PPE) to parts for ships and submarines.

Bryce Weber, Division Technology Manager for NUWC Keyport’s Rapid Prototyping & Fabrication Technology Division, said the Keyport team’s response to the pandemic has been impressive.

“Everyone has risen to the challenge,” said Weber. “Our Rapid Prototyping team adapts quickly to unexpected design, manufacturing, logistics, and procurement challenges every day. Figuring out creative ways to work around COVID-19 has almost been straightforward by comparison!”

Weber said one of the advantages that allowed the Rapid Prototyping team to adjust so quickly is the layout of the work center. The large additive manufacturing printers are already spaced out some distance from one another.

“Typically, the work being done in these spaces doesn't require many people to be in close proximity to one another,” Weber said. “This means our workforce is already ‘socially distancing,’ so our ability to protect our team has a good foundation.”

Weber said clear communication is required within the team to ensure all cleaning protocols are consistently followed since the team is working on a staggered schedule to help increase physical distance between employees. Vigilance is kept high to make sure no detail is missed, from cleaning the spaces to ensuring employees have access to PPE.

“We've been extra vigilant to ensure spaces are disinfected and that personal protection is always available,” said Weber. “Employees have been equipped with face coverings and instructed to wear them during times when group discussions are required. Since our team is conveniently manufacturing PPE, we’ve made the best of the situation and test out our mask and shield designs for fit and long-term wearability.”

The fact that NUWC Keyport’s additive manufacturing center never closed down means the command was quickly able to design, create or repair PPE for local medical providers. NUWC Keyport is currently supporting local civilian medical personnel, Naval Hospital Bremerton and U.S. Forces Korea with PPE. Weber said this dedication is both inspiring and will continue as long as the support is needed.

“The Keyport team has rallied around this effort in every facet, from procurement to logistics, engineering and leadership. We've hit very few roadblocks at the execution level, allowing for a very fast pace,” said Weber. “Each day the team is able to prototype new designs, develop new manufacturing processes, and deliver PPE hardware.”

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KEYPORT, Wash. (Apr. 22, 2020) - Jose Ruiz, a manufacturing engineer with the Rapid Prototyping and Fabrication Technology Division at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division, Keyport, manufactures personal protective equipment (PPE) with additive manufacturing technology. NUWC Keyport has been open for business during the pandemic through measures designed to protect the health and safety of the workforce such as reconfiguring the workspace to provide greater distance between stations and the use of face masks when workers must be in close proximity to one another. (U.S. Navy photo by Shayna Gosney/Released)
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