The admiral says that the Navy’s submarine plan can only be restored on track through 3D printing.


Title: The Future of Submarine Construction: Embracing Additive Manufacturing


Innovative technologies are rapidly transforming various industries, and the naval sector is no exception. Rear Adm. Jonathan Rucker, the Navy’s lead buyer for attack submarines, recently emphasized the importance of additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, for constructing and maintaining submarines efficiently. In his testimony during a House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing, Rucker asserted that without additive manufacturing, the Navy would struggle to meet the demand for submarine construction and sustainment. This blog post explores the significance of incorporating 3D printing in submarine production and the Navy’s efforts to leverage this technology effectively.

The Need for Additive Manufacturing:

Rucker highlighted the challenges faced by the Navy in meeting construction schedules due to the lack of available parts. The demand for submarines, particularly the Columbia-class and Virginia-class, has increased, and traditional manufacturing techniques alone cannot keep up. Additive manufacturing offers a solution to this dilemma by enabling the production of critical components such as forgings, castings, fittings, valves, and fasteners that are essential for submarine construction. By embracing 3D printing, the Navy can ensure timely delivery of parts, prevent production delays, and meet its ambitious goals of building three submarines per year.

Successes with 3D Printing:

The Navy has already witnessed the benefits of additive manufacturing in submarine production. Rucker mentioned that the first 3D-printed parts have been installed successfully in submarines, aiding their on-time completion. For instance, the Navy manufactured a critical valve, which was originally expected to be delayed by two years, using reverse engineering and 3D printing. As a result, the valve will be installed on the submarine by January, meeting its production schedule. These early successes serve as a testament to the potential of additive manufacturing in the naval industry.

Congressional Support and Funding:

Recognizing the importance of 3D printing, the Navy has requested additional authorities and funding from lawmakers to expand its additive manufacturing capabilities. The White House proposed $3.4 billion in supplemental funding, with a significant portion allocated for enhancing the submarine industrial base and developing technologies like additive manufacturing. This financial support will enable the Navy to accelerate its adoption of 3D printing and invest in resources for testing and inspection of printed parts—an essential step in ensuring the quality and reliability of these components.

Collaboration and Integration:

Rep. Jack Bergman expressed concerns about seamless integration and collaboration between defense officials and individuals involved in the actual construction process. To address this, the Navy is actively working on fostering collaboration and information sharing. Rucker pointed out the existence of an additive manufacturing consortium and a center of excellence in Danville, Virginia, where experts from various countries, including Australia, collaborate on refining the technical aspects of 3D printing. This collaborative approach guarantees that the knowledge and expertise are shared, leading to further advancements in additive manufacturing techniques.


As the Navy strives to meet the increasing demand for submarines, additive manufacturing presents itself as a critical solution. Rear Adm. Jonathan Rucker’s testimony reinforces the significance of 3D printing in this sector, emphasizing the need for timely production and maintenance of submarines. By investing in additive manufacturing technologies, the Navy can streamline construction schedules, address supply chain limitations, and improve overall operational efficiency. With continued support from Congress and collaboration with international partners, the future of submarine construction appears more promising than ever.

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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