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U.S. Navy awards $5M contract to Navatek and UMaine for AM research

The University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC) and Navatek LLC, a commercial and DoD research company specializing in ship hull forms and naval structures, have been granted a $5 million contract by the Office of Naval Research (ONR). The contract and funding will enable the partners to investigate materials and advanced manufacturing processes for the construction and optimization of Navy and Marine Corps vessels. The goal of the project is to improve the vessels’ speed, range, payload and survivability for Naval missions while simultaneously reducing costs and production time.

UMaine’s ASCC has been on our radar for some time. The research center, which focuses on composite materials and production methods, has made some truly impressive things using additive manufacturing, including the world’s largest prototype polymer 3D printer and the largest 3D printed boat. Now the school is combining its expertise with that of Navatek to explore the use of AM for surface vessel design and construction.

UMaine Navatek $5M navy research
The world’s largest 3D printed boat, produced by UMaine’s ASCC

The research project funded by the ONR will specifically tackle the development of tools and techniques that will enable engineers to “increase trust in additively manufactured structures,” as well as to evaluate new composite materials, create more complex structures and improve productivity, all while lowering costs. Ultimately, the partners will apply their AM processes and materials to design USVs, employing a modular approach for vessel structural design.

Habib Dagher, ASCC executive director, said of the collaboration: “Our research, advanced manufacturing and testing will help open the design space for 3D printed parts and frameless additive manufacturing to be applied to new vessels for the Navy. This project is a result of UMaine’s work last year where we commissioned the largest polymer 3D printer in the world at UMaine-ASCC and 3D printed a 25-foot-long, 5,000-pound patrol vessel.”

“The Navy’s decision to fund cutting-edge research in Maine is a testament to our state’s extremely talented shipbuilders, engineers and academic institutions,” said U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden. “This investment will support the extraordinary research being done by the University of Maine’s faculty and staff along with their partner, Navatek, to improve naval technology and better protect our sailors, while also creating good-paying jobs. We are proud that this work to strengthen our national security will be conducted right here in the state of Maine.”

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