The ocean can be a desolate place. If equipment breaks or spare parts are needed, there’s not exactly a Home Depot or a Lowe’s in the neighborhood.
The Virginian-Pilot reports that the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge have been outfitted with 3-D printers for custom part production.
Both ships were deployed recently to the Middle East to fight the Islamic State. Strike aircraft from the Truman flew through first Operation Inherent Resolve missions on Dec. 29, according to the Truman’s public affairs office.
For now, the printers are helping the crews solve practical tasks, such as printing dust caps and a wrench. The so-called “fab lab” was installed by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center three days prior to the Truman’s departure.
In one noted instance the crew printed a new oil cup after the original proved to be too small for a funnel aboard the vessel.
“It required at least two people to get all the oil in the cup, so I figured we have this technology here, why not try something that would make this task easier,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Raymond Lee to The Virginian-Pilot.
“The whole goal is really to make us more self-sufficient as we deploy,” said Cmdr. Brady Drennan to the publication. “Because when we leave the pier, we basically leave all the suppliers, all the equipment, all the tools there.”
The U.S. Navy isn’t the only military outfit testing out the potentials of 3-D printing. In the summer, the British Royal Navy launched a 3-D printed aircraft from their HMS Mersey. In Taiwan, 3-D printing is being utilized for maintenance on aging military components.
Watch a video on the 3-D printers aboard the Truman below.