Although the U.S. Navy has adopted slightly more addictive manufacturing (AM) than the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, the U.S. military has begun to change slowly over the past year, with the overall pace of its AM activities. One of the ships that has come a long way on this route is the USS Essex (LHD2), which is currently operating under Commander, Naval Surface Force, US Pacific Fleet (COMNAVSURFPAC), Vice Admiral Roy Kitchener.

Essex, a Wasp-Class amphibious attack ships that were originally launched in February 1991 were the first US Navy ships to install 3D printers onboard in 2014. The machine referred to in the current story – ElemX Liquid Metal Printer, Xerox’s first and as part of a strategic partnership between Xerox and the Naval Post Graduate School (NPS), so far only 3D printing system – was installed on Essex a year ago. ElemX can print aluminum parts up to 10 “x 10”.

Now, NPS and COMNAVSURFPAC have followed that initial phase by testing the feasibility of the technology while at Essex Sea. To make its debut in the latest phase of research, the Navy chose a particularly dramatic program: this year’s RIM of the Pacific Exercise, or RIMPAC; The world’s largest international naval war game.

In a press release, Lt. CMDR. Nicholas Batista, an Essex Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD) official, commented, “The capabilities of the 3D printer will enable Essex to become more self-sufficient. A[AM has become a priority] And this is obvious [it] Warfare throughout the fleet will provide a major boost to combat efforts and increase campaign maintenance, contributing to the competitive edge of our surface.

At this point, Essex’s crew has just run a diagnostic test with ElemX. Yet, the fact that this happened while the ship was at sea shows that the U.S. Navy is crossing a huge threshold compared to all previous attempts by AM. “We could never do anything,” said Jonah Wedge, a second-class aviation electronics technician in Essex. [at sea] With the accuracy and complexity that this new 3D printer will provide … ”Furthermore, while this is admittedly effective, technological evolution does not make the most serious signal arising from this development.

More seriously, what is being argued here is the evolution of the professional roles that make up the chain-of-command of the U.S. military. The press release states that, now that the diagnostic test has been successful, the first group of sailors on Essex will be trained to use AM in support of the military supply chain. The group includes Roxanne Barrera, a 3rd class aviation structural mechanic, who said, “I just want to learn to operate. [the printer] And share [the knowledge] With other people. “

The fact that the U.S. military is creating some roles like “additive manufacturing technicians” in the equation in all its branches shows that the AM sector has officially created a permanent place for itself in the U.S. industrial landscape. In addition, the entry of the U.S. Navy into other branches in its AM progress suggests that the use of AM in the maritime sector could, in general, interact with a large number of industries.

Image courtesy of US Navy, 3rd Class Isaac Martinez, Petty Officer