Today it costs the U.S. Navy about $2.6 billion and just under 2.5 years to build a Virginia-class sub. But a joint endeavor by the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense could greatly reduce those costs going forward.
According to a video by Business Insider, the joint project involves using a 3D printer to hake the hull of a mini-submarine.
3D printing has been around for a while – and in 2015, a Royal Air Force Panavia Tornado flew with parts that had been made that way. But this latest effort takes things to a whole new level. It also hit the news when Defense Distributed released plans for 3D-printed firearms.
Members of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two (SDVT-2) prepare to launch one of the team's SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDV) from the back of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Philadelphia (SSN 690) on a training exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer's Mate Andrew McKaskle (RELEASED)
The mini-submarine in the video appears to be very similar to SEAL Delivery Vehicles. These are used to help SEAL infiltrate in and out. Normally these hulls cost about $800,000 to make over a period of months, but 3D printing can reduce the cost by 90 percent and create the hull in a matter of weeks.
The logistical advantages for 3D printing are also significant – offering the ability to custom-design needed parts. That saves time in getting a plane or vehicle back into the fight, and that time could save lives.
3D Printing. Photo by Jonathan Juursema.
One prototype has been built, and a second is planned. They will be tested by the Navy.
If all goes well, these printed SDVs could be in service by 2019. To see more about this, watch the video below.