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U.S. Navy 3D Prints Submersible Submarine

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The United States Navy has successfully managed to design and 3D print a submersible submarine. Joining forces with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Navy managed to design, print, and assemble a submersible submarine in a mere four weeks. The submersible has been named the ‘Optionally Manned Technology Demonstrator’ and promises a bold new future in the world of 3D printed devices.

The submarine is no small piece of technology. To make it a reality, the team behind it had to use a giant industrial printer known as Big Area Additive Manufacturing. Six separate carbon fiber sections were each printed up. These sections were then assembled into a submarine that reaches 30 feet in length, making it the Navy’s largest piece of 3D printed technology to date.

The equipment took just four weeks from start to finish. According to the Department of Energy, making a similar creation through conventional means would take about five months to complete. Additionally, the 3D version is significantly cheaper; a standard submarine of the same size would cost roughly $800,000. The Optionally Manned Technology Demonstrator cost about 90% less. Besides saving the Navy a lot of money, the ability to quickly and efficiently make vehicles is an enormous potential asset. Technology will be able to adapt at a much quicker pace, allowing the military to deal with rapidly changing environments and situations as needed.

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Despite its success, the Optionally Manned Technology Demonstrator won’t be used by the Navy; it was merely a demonstration of new technology and the potential for new equipment and technology. However, its enormous success — not to mention its considerably lower price tag — indicates that the Navy will be utilizing this technology in the future.

Although the Optionally Manned Technology Demonstrator won’t be hitting the high sea anytime soon, its legacy will remain. The team behind it — which was awarded the NAVSEA Commander’s Award for innovation — are hard at work on their next creation. Their next 3D submarine will be subjected to even more demanding tests than its predecessor. It will undergo physical testing at an elite facility designed to mimic the environment of the open ocean. This test could prove the most important for the 3D submersible; should it succeed, we could see 3D vehicles joining the Navy as soon as 2019.

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