WEST BETHESDA, Md., Feb. 22, 2017 — Since opening its doors here in March, the Manufacturing, Knowledge and Education — or MAKE — Lab has attracted a wide variety of employees across Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division who are curious about the additive manufacturing process and its application to Navy programs.
AM, or 3-D printing, is a cross-cutting manufacturing technology in which parts are built by the addition of material in thin, successive layers. The technology presents an ability to produce and reproduce components in a quick, cost-effective, on-demand fashion.
It’s a rapidly maturing technology, and in recent years its benefits have gained increased recognition. The technology is significant to the Navy, as it offers the potential to rapidly develop and improve upon systems and components crucial to supporting the fleet and its warfighters. Future projections of AM integration include all aspects of naval operations, from research and development to production, manufacturing and life-cycle maintenance support.
Within Carderock, the potential capabilities of AM technology are of particular interest to many employees, including those outside of the materials and manufacturing area.
Kent Bartlett, a mechanical engineer in Carderock's hydroacoustics and propulsor development branch, is an active proponent of AM technology. He advocates the speed and flexibility AM affords in the production of complicated parts. In support of test work in the anechoic flow facility, Bartlett used the MAKE Lab to manufacture an adapter used to connect varying diameters of flexible polymer tubing used to create static pressure taps.
Bartlett explained how the limitations of the premanufactured adapters did not allow his team to freely connect tubes of varying diameters, as they are made for specific tubing pairs.
"Well, one adapter might connect 1/8-1/4 inch, and you can only use it for 1/8-1/4 inch tubing," Bartlett explained, so he turned the design of an existing adapter that costs about $65 into a 3-D print.
“If the part gets ruined or breaks, it's cheap and fast to remake or tweak my design as needed,” he said. “Plus, creating the adapter myself means I can go to and from whatever sizes I want. That means we can use the adapters a lot more within our facility."
The MAKE Lab, managed by the Carderock's Additive Manufacturing Project Office, aims for a collaborative approach to the 3-D printing process that inspires creativity and innovation by encouraging knowledge-sharing and providing space and resources necessary to actively test the AM process, officials said.
The AM Project Office offers training to anyone who wants to explore the lab's capabilities, and employees are not required to have a technical background to use the lab. In fact, many who take training are unfamiliar with the 3-D printing process before learning to use the lab's equipment, said Jonathan Hopkins, a mechanical engineer and acting head of the AM Project Office.
Hopkins said he highly encourages all employees, technical and nontechnical, to take the two-hour training, which consists of a presentation, discussion of the MAKE Lab’s goals, a software and equipment demonstration, culminating with each trainee creating a 3-D print. So far, 155 employees have participated in the training, Hopkins said.