Rapid Response: Navy Engineers Innovate With 3-D Printing

By Dustin Diaz

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division

Dung Su, Frank Neukam, Sam Pratt, Jonathan Hopkins, Keith Brennan and Ryan Franke, all employees with Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, display additively manufactured aviation part they rapidly produced in a first-of-its-kind response to a critical need to restore stalled training operations for the T-45 Goshawk.

In a first-of-its-kind effort, the Additive Manufacturing (AM) Warfare Center Working Group (WCWG) recently used 3-D printing to restore stalled training operations for the T-45 Goshawk after crews began experiencing physical effects in flight that impaired their ability to safely fly the aircraft.

The Navy concluded a comprehensive review of the issue April 21 and the investigation into the root causes of the problem is ongoing.

While a long-term solution is being sought, the short-term solution is a flip-top valve (pictured below) that will allow pilots to breathe cabin air at lower altitudes.

Carderock engineers collaborated with other commands from the Additive Manufacturing Warfare Center Working Group to quickly produce the above part that will allow flight crews of the T-45 Goshawk to safely complete their missions.

“It’s a really cool example of what you can do with additive manufacturing in the real world,” said Sam Pratt, a mechanical engineer with Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division’s Additive Manufacturing Project Office. “In this case, we’ve got this need: a critical system is down; we need to figure out how we can fix it and get these pilots back in the air. We needed a lot of parts on really short notice.”

The first parts came off the printer less than 48 hours after they were requested.

“With AM, you don’t need any tooling, you just need the design and, in this case, we have that, so there’s no need to spend millions of dollars over many months to create an injection molding shop and deal with all the logistics there,” said Pratt. “In the span of about a week and a half, we’ve gone from design to approval to manufacturing and, then, installation.”

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