First 3D-printed submarine takes shape

Submarine construction does not necessarily have to be a lengthy and expensive process as the U.S. Navy’s Disruptive Technology Lab has shown creating the military’s first 3D-printed submarine hull.

Working with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the U.S. Navy built a SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV)-inspired submarine that cost 90% less and took only days to build.

A traditional SDV hull costs between $600,000 and $800,000 and typically takes 3-5 months to manufacture.

Named Optionally Manned Technology Demonstrator, the 3D-printed submarine was built after the navy team needed to create a 30-foot proof-of-concept hull out of carbon fiber composite material, turning to Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) as a solution.

The prototype was built at ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility where the submarine was “printed” in two weeks. The team assembled the six pieces of the hull during the third week.

The Navy team even received the NAVSEA Commanders Award for Innovation for their solution and will now be taking the next step. They want to create a second, water-tight version of the hull that will be tested in the wave pool at Carderock testing facility that mimics the most compromising conditions that ships and submarines could encounter in the open ocean.

Fleet-capable prototypes could be introduced as early as 2019, according to the U.S Department of Energy.