NAVSEA PCD partnership delivers inexpensive UUV using additive manufacturing

NAVSEA PCD partnership delivers inexpensive UUV using additive manufacturing

December 8, 2021

Engineering Duty Officers (EDO) from the U.S. Navy Reserve have collaborated with Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) personnel to rapidly deliver an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) solution using additive manufacturing.

Three Naval Reservists came together with a common goal: produce a small, fast, and inexpensive UUV. The project was first introduced by a former EDO from NSWC PCD at a workshop in 2019 that piqued the interest of the EDOs.

While pursuing this goal, the EDOs also found that leveraging a cell phone to gather data for UUV control would be valuable for communities all over the Navy. The trio was able to make progress towards both of these goals.

Chuck Self, Additive Manufacturing Laboratory (AML) manager at NSWC PCD, said the EDOs used resources available at NSWC PCD to bring their concept to life.

“NSWC PCD’s Center for Innovation, or CFI, had many of the tools, materials and knowledge point sharing needed to rapidly develop a concept into a product ready for testing,” Self said. “This is a great example of an innovative project that was able to rapidly develop their ideas into reality by using the great resources in the CFI. The EDOs started with drawings and concepts and in less than two weeks they had a prototype in the water for initial testing!”

Lt. Brian Adornato, EDO Reservist from SurgeMain Sacramento, was responsible for development of the naval architecture calculations to determine the appropriate loading of the vessel and assembly of the propulsion system.

“It turned out NSWC PCD was the perfect place for our project. They have excellent 3D printing facilities, large electronics shops, pools for testing, and a network of labs working on similar issues with UUV's,” Adornato said. “Most importantly, the personnel we met were all eager to help us accomplish our goals.”

Adornato said the AML played a critical role in the project.

“The AML provided a number of high-quality 3D printers to create the prototype, and the staff's advice and assistance was a force multiplier for us,” he said. “Not only were we able to print our initial design, but we were able to iterate the design and incorporate improvements from testing.”

Lt. Joshua Kish, EDO Reservist assigned to SurgeMain Atlanta, said he spent most of him time in the AML at NSWC PCD modeling the UUV and 3D printing.

“I really appreciate the ability to easily model something, then just send it over to the printer to print. In just a few hours I can see/touch/feel the design I made, see how it works/doesn't work and if needed make adjustments immediately and reprint,” Kish said.

Kish added he appreciates the opportunities for collaboration at the Command.

“Outside of the AML, we have been able to connect with other teams easily and gain valuable insight or feedback on the spot in regards to our project or other projects they have worked on,” he said. "It has been really great being able to integrate with the workforce, network, and build those relationships that can help in the future.”

The EDO community provides technical expertise and leadership to Naval Sea Systems Command and other organizations. EDOs are Direct Commission Restricted Line Officers and must obtain a master’s degree in a technical field to fully qualify in their specialty. Additionally, EDOs support a wide variety of commands throughout the Navy, including multiple projects at NSWC PCD.

The EDOs are working to develop a low-cost unmanned vehicle which will require less effort to put together, allowing teams to conduct less setup with the typical controls of the vehicle and focus more on the specialized application of the vehicle. The collaboration between all entities provides an opportunity to gather insights from one another and develop best practices to use at their respective commands. Next steps for the EDOs include continuing to refine their UUV and further develop the use of cellular phones for sensing.

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