The technology has already been used to produce spare parts, and is now being trialed more widely to print parts that are not normally kept on vessels and which may be difficult to source. The Coast Guard said this will improve mission readiness and logistical support.
“Sometimes those parts have lead times of weeks... maybe months, depending on the workload of the manufacturer,” said Captain Joseph Dugan, manager for the National Security Cutter Program.
“Sometimes manufacturers no longer make the parts, and need to retool a production line in order to make us the part we need,” he added on the official Coast Guard blog.
The project, which is in the evaluation phase, is being run by the the Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC) in New London, Connecticut. Currently 3-D printers are available for crew use on five Coast Guard cutters as well as at several shore units, including Base New Orleans and the Surface Forces Logistics Center Engineering Services Division in Baltimore.
“Additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, has potential to help smooth some of the logistics issues that the Coast Guard faces with its fleet,” said Jason Story, RDC project manager. “This can be time-consuming, and very costly to the government.”
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