US Navy Deploys First Metal 3D Printer at Sea

The Xerox ElemX 3D metal printer has been installed on USS Essex (LHD 2) and at-sea trials have begun in the Pacific Rim By DA Staff / 21 Jul 2022
US Navy Deploys First Metal 3D Printer at Sea
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Xerox Elem Additive Solutions has announced that its ElemX liquid metal printer has been installed on board USS Essex (LHD 2), claiming that it is the first metal additive manufacturing machine deployed on a US Naval vessel.

This installation is the latest step in the US Navy’s strategy of using Additive Manufacturing (AM) to increase operational readiness for the fleet. It will also build on the relationship between the US Navy and Xerox Elem Additive that began with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California receiving the first-ever installation of the ElemX in 2020.

“The military supply chain is among the most complex in the world and putting the ElemX on USS Essex means that sailors can now bypass that complexity and print parts when and where they need them,” said Tali Rosman, GM of Elem Additive. “We are proud to continue our partnership with the Navy to help them advance their additive manufacturing capabilities and execute their long-term vision.”

The ElemX leverages Xerox’s liquid metal AM technology that uses standard aluminum wire. Unlike other metal 3D printing technologies, there are no hazardous metal powders with ElemX and no need for special facility modifications or personal protective equipment to operate the machine. The printer also requires minimal post-processing and therefore provides a faster time-to-part. This ability to produce reliable replacement parts on-demand reduces the dependency on complex global supply chains for deployed forces.

To withstand various sea states and environmental challenges that US naval warships encounter, the ElemX was installed in an industrial shipping container to ruggedize it. 

Currently at sea on board USS Essex, trials have already begun to establish operational guidelines and technical feasibility studies to determine applications and use cases. A team on board USS Essex will design and print shipboard items and provide feedback to NPS and Commander, Naval Surface Force Pacific (COMNAVSURPAC).

The ElemX 3D printer was commercially introduced in February 2021, and since then, Elem Additive Solutions has expanded operations, including opening an Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Cary, North Carolina. The ElemX is a safe and simple metal 3D printer, addressing supply chain resiliency for transportation, aerospace, defense and industrial manufacturing and engineered to bring simplicity to the supply chain process.

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