Case StudiesMaritime Industry

How NNS utilizes AM to produce spotface cutting tools

HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding turns to additive manufacturing to save thousands of man-hours over time

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When Chris Davis, a tool engineer at HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) division, designed an upgrade for a spotface cutting tool needed for work aboard John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), it represented half of a success story, as his design still needed to be produced. Conventional manufacturing would have taken weeks, but meeting schedule requirements for CVN 79 required a faster, more efficient approach, without sacrificing quality.

As is becoming more commonplace nowadays, 3D printing was the chosen route to manufacture the main body of the specialized cutting tool, which was completed in a matter of days, thanks to Deputy Chief Engineer John Ralls and his additive manufacturing.

“It is [this] alternate fabrication method that is able to rapidly produce tools of high precision, in order to support the end product,” said Ralls. “In this case, we were able to take the digital tool design from Chris Davis, and print the part in a matter of days.”

How NNS utilizes AM to produce spotface cutting tools. HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding turns to AM to save thousands of man-hours over time.
Components 3D printed by NNS for NAVSEA.

The new design utilizes carbide inserts that can be rotated or changed out, compared to the old cutter, which is made from tool steel and had to be sharpened nearly daily. The spotface cutting tool, needed for work on CVN 79, is expected to save thousands of man-hours over time, according to HII.

“This tool example demonstrates the benefit of long-term strategic thinking,” said Ralls. “Newport News Shipbuilding has taken a leadership role in specific technologies, additive manufacturing being one of them. We have removed numerous roadblocks that have enabled us to support emergent parts like this spotface cutting tool.”

“What are the problems out there that we can help solve, like with this spotface cutting tool? This is just one example. We want to continue to be thought leaders of this technology in the industry,” continued Ralls, who encouraged outsiders to get in touch with any suggestions or ideas on how additive manufacturing can improve processes at NNS.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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