ORONO – The University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC) is working toward being able to 3D print autonomous vessels for the Navy.
“It’s an outgrowth of work we started at the university almost three years ago in designing this 3D printer you see behind me here in this picture, as well as printing a boat last October,” said Habib Dagher, director of ASCC.
Dagher said this caught the Navy’s attention, which led the university to partner with Navatek, an architecture naval engineer company.
“Together, we proposed to the Navy to help them do just that, see if they can 3D print some of their new systems and do it a lot faster, than they would otherwise do.”
The Office of Naval Research gave them a $5 million grant.
“We’ve worked with the Office of Naval Research for over 20 years now at the Composite Center at UMaine, but this is the very first time we’re doing a project on 3D printing some vessels for them,” Dagher said.
He said it will take about two years to develop material that can withstand an ocean environment.
“Following that, we’ll go ahead and design and build some boats, so that would be following that,” Dagher said. “In three years from now, I hope we should be able to see a 3D printed 50-foot vessel for the Navy.”
Students will be involved in the project as it begins in the fall.
“Students can leave their classrooms and come work in the laboratory and learn by doing things, by designing, the computer modeling, the designing the parts, printing the parts, so they’re involved in cutting edge research,” Dagher said.
Dagher hopes there can eventually be spinoff companies that produce these to create jobs in Maine.