3D printer aboard USS Harry S. Truman saves US Navy $42,000 in months

A 3D printer invention, developed by a team of sailors assigned to the U.S. navy’s Norfolk-based aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman’s (CVN 75) Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department, was sent for production aboard the International Space Station, June 21.

The TruClip design was transmitted to the ISS as part of the Capitol Hill Maker Faire, celebrating the White House-sponsored National Week of Making, which runs June 17-23.

The TruClip was originally designed as a cost-effective replacement part for the ship’s handheld radio system, that could be created with a 3-D printer, and has resulted in the Navy saving more than $42,000 in the few months since its conception.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” said Lt. Casey Staidl, Truman’s IM-4 division officer. “This recognition isn’t something you’d expect when you start searching for a simple solution to a common problem on board. It’s a surprise, but a good one.”

“The use of a 3-D printer has given us the ability to extend the life of our equipment when supplies are limited,” said Staidl. “We’re able to come up with our own solutions for shipboard issues.”

Additive manufacturing projects, such as the TruClip, represent a new resource for the Navy to produce replacement parts and find creative solutions for challenges faced while at sea. Truman’s 3-D printing lab has also designed pieces for hoses used by the on board anesthesiologist, new oil funnels, deck drains, and switch covers, and provides immediate on board solutions to everyday issues.

Apart from Harry S. Truman, USS Kearsarge was also fitted with an afloat mini Fabrication Laboratory in September 2015.

The mini fab lab consists of two additive manufacturing (3D) printers along with a desktop Computerized Numerical Control (CNC) mill. The 3D printer has the ability to build various sizes and shapes out of polymers. The CNC mini mill uses subtractive manufacturing processes to create circuit boards.