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US Coast Guard hosts first Arctic tests of 3D printing system on icebreaker

The main US naval ship designated for Arctic research, Healy, is now being used to test new 3D printing equipment in that region. (Michael Fabey)

Researchers from the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) will test Amos01 3D printer operations for the first time in the Arctic on an icebreaker during a seven-week Arctic transit aboard the US Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Healy (WAGB 20) icebreaker, US Navy (USN) officials confirmed on 30 August.

US naval forces have been increasing their ability to 3D print parts on various platforms, looking to increase their ability to conduct maintenance, address supply-chain issues, and generally expand maritime operations.

Developed by Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific, the Amos01 system will be used to 3D print parts at sea to help prepare US naval forces for operations in more remote or contested environments where supply chains are limited.

The main US naval ship used for Arctic research and operations, Healy, left Kodiak on 26 August for testing and studies, which will be conducted under the supervision of principal investigator Nita Shattuck, a professor in the NPS Operations Research (OR) department, the USN said.

“We are using the CAMRE [Consortium for Additive Manufacturing Research and Education] 3D printer data to correlate with our physiological data,” Shattuck said in a statement. “Ship's motion and vibration are recorded by the system, which is crucial for our research.”

Installed by NPS' CAMRE, the Amos01 system is designed to analyse sea conditions and ship movement for printing product quality, USN officials noted.

“The accelerometers installed on the 3D printer record roll, pitch, and yaw and other environmental factors to determine how these conditions affect not just the printer's overall component quality, but the operator's performance,” the USN statement noted.

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