NSWC Panama City Expands Capability With 3-D Metal Printer

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June 18, 2019 | Originally published by Date Line: June 18 on

PANAMA CITY, Fla. —The Additive Manufacturing Laboratory (AML) at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) is taking 3-dimensional (3-D) printing one step further in leading innovation through the recent addition of 3-D metal printing technology.

Chuck Self, NSWC PCD AML head, said the addition of the metal 3-D printer is a big step for NSWC PCD to rapidly deliver solutions to ensure Warfighting dominance by allowing parts and prototypes to be produced efficiently and repeated accurately in a timely manner.

“There are many advantages to having access to a metal 3-D printer. Major advantages include reduction in time to complete prints, reproducibility, and the complexity of parts available for print,” said Self. “NSWC PCD’s goal is to produce efficient and quality products to the Warfighter, and this printer will allow our engineers and scientists to create strong and complex products in a shorter timeframe.”

The printer is an EOS M290 direct metal laser sintering machine, which produces fully dense, complex, and accurate parts. The parts are built layer by layer using a 400-W laser in a nitrogen atmosphere on a bed of powdered metal. The system can produce small and complex parts or parts as large as the print bed.

Halie Cameron, NSWC PCD mechanical engineer, said the printer was obtained in order to increase capabilities in fiscal year 18. 

“The printer is capable of building highly complex geometries that are unable to be fabricated by traditional machining. A benefit of the printer is part reduction by combining parts that would have been fabricated separately with traditional machining,” said Cameron. “As the capabilities grow, metal 3-D printers will likely become irreplaceable.”

The metal 3-D printer allows users to create parts that may not be easily and affordably machined via traditional methods but may be perfect candidates for metal additive manufacturing.