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CHIPS Articles: NSWC Panama City expands capability with 3D metal printer

NSWC Panama City expands capability with 3D metal printer
By Katherine Mapp, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division - June 7, 2019
PANAMA CITY, Fla. — The Additive Manufacturing Laboratory (AML) at Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) is taking 3-dimensional (3D) printing one step further in leading innovation through the recent addition of 3D metal printing technology.

Chuck Self, NSWC PCD AML head, said the addition of the metal 3D printer is a big step for NSWC PCD to rapidly deliver solutions to ensure warfighting dominance by allowing parts and prototypes to be produced efficiently and repeated accurately in a timely manner.

“There are many advantages to having access to a metal 3D printer. Major advantages include reduction in time to complete prints, reproducibility, and the complexity of parts available for print,” said Self. “NSWC PCD’s goal is to produce efficient and quality products to the warfighter, and this printer will allow our engineers and scientists to create strong and complex products in a shorter time frame.”

The printer is an EOS M290 Direct Metal Laser Sintering machine, which produces fully dense, complex and accurate parts. The parts are built layer by layer using a 400-Watt laser in a nitrogen atmosphere on a bed of powdered metal. The system can produce small and complex parts or parts as large as the print bed.

Halie Cameron, NSWC PCD mechanical engineer said the printer was obtained to increase capabilities in fiscal year 18.

“The printer is capable of building highly complex geometries that are unable to be fabricated by traditional machining. A benefit of the printer is part reduction, by combining parts that would have been fabricated separately with traditional machining,” said Cameron. “As the capabilities grow, metal 3D printers will likely become irreplaceable.”

The metal 3D printer allows users to create parts that may not be easily and affordably machined via traditional methods, but may be perfect candidates for metal additive manufacturing.

Nicole Waters, NSWC PCD machine shops project manager, said the addition of the 3D metal printer allows NSWC PCD to effectively create a collaboration and innovation network internal to our base regarding 3D printing.

“Having the metal 3D printer in-house at NSWC PCD allows us to make parts that are customizable to the customer’s needs vice lengthy ordering lead times,” said Waters. “This gives our scientists and engineers the opportunity to work one on one with the AML personnel to get their product built exactly the way they want. We encourage the One Team motto in the AML and want to create the highest quality parts for our Fleet projects and research prototypes.”

If you have any questions, please contact the AML team at any time. If it is determined that metal 3D printing may not work for your project, other printing options are available as well.

Chuck Self, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division additive manufacturing laboratory head, prepares the EOS M290 Direct Metal Laser Sintering printer.  Photo by Eddie Green
Chuck Self, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division additive manufacturing laboratory head, prepares the EOS M290 Direct Metal Laser Sintering printer. Photo by Eddie Green
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