The US Navy 3D-printed a full-size 'disposable' submersible

The US Departments of Energy and Defense teamed up to create the first of what may prove to be many submersible craft described as 'disposable' with on-demand availability. Unlike traditional submersible vessels, this model was created using a 3D printer, and the entire process — including design — took only four weeks. This makes it the US Navy's first-ever 3D-printed submersible hull.

The creation was recently described by the US Department of Energy, which explains that the large item you see in the video below is a prototype vessel that may be used for, in this case, deploying sensors and logistics capabilities in support of Navy projects. The vessel measures 30ft in length and is made using a composite of carbon fiber. This is just the start of the plans.

The Department of Energy goes on to describe the creation process of traditional hulls like this — that usually takes 3 to 5 months and can cost up to $800,000 each. By utilizing 3D-printing technology, the Navy is able to cut that time down to mere weeks with a huge savings in both cost and energy. The rapidly produced nature of these vessels also means they can be created 'on-demand' and they're relatively disposable.

This is something like a proof of concept, and the Navy's researchers plan to build upon it. The Department of Energy states that the team plans to create a new version of the vessel that is water-tight. This new vessel will be tested in a wave pool located in the elite testing facility Carderock; the pool is said to mimic the kind of conditions submarines and ships may deal with when out in the ocean.

This project is described as being something like a milestone for defense sector manufacturing, though the total planned uses for these vessels isn't clear. The Energy Department suggests that the data gathered from this project will pave the way for similar 3D-printing-based projects that could include categories spanning everything from military buildings and structures to aerospace and boating.

SOURCE: Department of Energy