NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. –
Replacing broken parts on a ship can often be an expensive and time-consuming obstacle. However, for the ships at Naval Station Mayport, and fleet-wide, this may soon be a problem of the past.
Lt. Cmdr. Jake Lunday, Navy Reserve engineering duty officer at Office of the Chief of Naval Operations office for Fleet Readiness and Logistics (OPNAV N4) as an additive manufacturing analyst, visited Mayport in support of the 3D printing lab, or Fabrication Lab at Naval Station Mayport’s Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC).
“The Fabrication Lab is currently being used to augment SERMC Sailors’ own existing talent,” explained Lunday. “I’m helping ships’ forces identify parts that are needed and then get those 3D models into the technical data package process so they can then become available in the electronic library. We are already at 270 NAVSEA-approved parts that are printable for shipboard use, and that number is growing.”
3D printing, formally known as additive manufacturing, is something Lunday has specialized in both as a hobby and in his civilian career field outside of the Navy.
“I am a director of manufacturing and engineering in the private sector,” said Lunday. “I design manufacturing equipment, and conduct technical support for factories across North America. I've been 3D printing as a hobby for eight or nine years.”
Lunday’s expertise in 3D printing was noticed and sought after by the Navy.
“The Reserves have what they call the civilian skill sets database,” explained Lunday. “It's where the Navy knows what our civilian skill sets are as reservists. If a need arises within the Navy for that skill set, it's a database they can pull from and find subject matter experts.”
This led to Lunday being tasked with supporting various aspects of operationalizing 3D printing as a viable option for the future of naval maintenance.
Shipboard commands can fill out an application to develop a technical data package. Once approved, these technical data packages are uploaded to the NAVSEA-approved digital library of parts that can be downloaded and printed for any ship that may require them.
“I've been on over 35 ships in the last three years helping identify parts,” said Lunday. “It's been really rewarding, just getting to interact with all sorts of experts on their spaces and really understand what parts they need or can't get, or have long lead time or are too expensive.”
The use of a 3D printer in a military capacity is only possible when there is access to approved data packages for parts and equipment. Ryan Donnelly, a project engineer and project manager at Navy Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division in Bethesda, Maryland, was the first to develop a NAVSEA-approved technical data package.
“Back in 2019, I was assigned to the NAVSEA Naval Systems Engineering & Logistics Directorate under the additive manufacturing research and development program to start looking at some of the parts that we can identify in these Navy Additive Manufacturing [3D printing] part identification exercises,” said Donnelly. “We had about 500 to 600 parts coming from two exercises, one in Norfolk and one in San Diego.”
This resulted in the need to implement these ideas for printable parts into functional data packages that can be utilized in the fleet.
“NAVSEA’s process was to start turning these into actual technical data packages that are approved,” Donnelly explained. “My task was to look at some of the other technical data packages that we have out in the fleet. NAVAIR has their own type of data package, so I looked at theirs and was able to take a lot of what they've already done and build that into our first actual data package.”
These data packages take the technical side of 3D printing and streamline the process for anyone who has access to the NAVSEA approved digital library.
“This enables Sailors to 3D-print parts on demand in a shipboard environment or underway,” Lunday explained. “It really cuts down on the lead time to get parts. These approved parts are downloadable. So, you can download the NAVSEA approved part and print on demand.”
The convenience and potential for 3D printing in a shipboard environment is especially appreciated by those assigned to the ships. Lt. Fredrick Saporita, chief engineer aboard the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS DETROIT (LCS 7), believes there is a great deal of potential for 3D printing in a shipboard environment.
“3D printing has created significant readiness improvements,” Saporita remarked. “There are a lot of plastic parts and even some lightweight metallic parts that have very long lead times, especially high-demand items. The ability to 3D-print significantly reduces the time it takes to get those parts. We will see major cost savings with a lot of these items, and the ability to get these items quicker is going to help make us more efficient.”
Lunday has printed parts made out of plastic, metal and even rubber, further cementing his belief that 3D printing has a prominent future in modernizing shipboard maintenance and mission logistic requirements. These parts can be common items, such as fuse pullers or valve handles.
“The future is building that digital library so we can have thousands of parts available on demand,” said Lunday. “I see it continuing to expand and evolve as more materials and parts are approved.”
Lunday further elaborated on the simplicity and ease of being able to download and 3D-print NAVSEA-approved parts.
“You do not have to reverse engineer anything, all you have to do is operate the printer, hit print and you can get that part anywhere in the world.”
Sailors can reach out to the NAVSEA Technology Office at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions, comments or ideas for 3D-printable parts aboard their own ships.
Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Navy Reserves website.