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3D Printing Large Metal Parts for Land, Sea, Air

By Advanced Manufacturing Media
ISE’s Arctic Explorer is the largest of the Explorer Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) class, measuring over 7-m long and weighing over 2000 kg.

Sciaky Inc. (Chicago) has staked its claim to being the leading provider of metal 3D printing solutions for large parts approved for land, sea, air, and space applications, with the latest success being its Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) technology. Sciaky was called upon to manufacture a titanium variable ballast (VB) tank for a submarine manufacturer. EBAM technology helped the submarine manufacturer save significant time and cost by 3D printing the VB tank for the deep sea application on short notice when the conventional supplier of the tank went out of business.

International Submarine Engineering (ISE) Ltd. and International Submarine Engineering Research (ISER) are global leaders in the design and integration of underwater vehicle systems, including AUVs, ROVs, and HOVs, as well as assorted terrestrial robotic systems. Since 1974, the ISO 9001-certified companies have developed unique capabilities for turning diverse conceptual requirements into functional solutions for its broad customer base. The 3D printing capability of EBAM technology is the latest solution to be integrated into its multidisciplinary approach to engineering.

ISE had planned to produce the titanium VB tank through traditional manufacturing forging processes. However, its supplier, an overseas titanium forging facility that previously produced propellant tanks for the Russian space program, went out of business. To avoid a delay in the production of its Arctic Explorer Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, ISE approached Sciaky Inc. to produce the tank using its Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing technology. Sciaky had previously 3D-printed titanium propellant tanks for Lockheed Martin Space Systems in 2015.

The engineers and project management team at Sciaky immediately put together an aggressive plan to produce the new titanium VB tank for ISE. In the end, production time was reduced from 16 weeks to 8 weeks, and overall costs were reduced compared with retooling with a new forging supplier. In addition, the VB tank created with Sciaky’s EBAM process passed the same vigorous qualification testing as the tank previously created with the forging process. ISE now plans to 3D print other critical titanium parts with Sciaky’s EBAM process.

The titanium VB tank is a sub-system of ISE’s Arctic Explorer Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) class of vehicles. ISE previously built two Arctic Explorers for Natural Resources Canada/Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) to map the sea floor underneath the Arctic ice shelf in support of Canada’s claim under Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Arctic Explorer is the largest of the Explorer AUV class, measuring over 7-m long and weighing over 2000 kg. It can be launched from a ship or through an ice-hole. Its modular sections can be separated for transportation. Rated to 5000 m (roughly 3.11 miles) depth, the Arctic Explorer is designed to remain underwater between missions for extended periods of time. A small Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) conducts all servicing and charging after the AUV is attached to a docking head.

“Sciaky is proud to help International Submarine Engineering cut production time by 50% and reduce costs by 3D printing their titanium VB tank with our one-of-a-kind EBAM process,” said Bob Phillips, vice president of marketing for Sciaky Inc. “Our EBAM technology is the world’s only industrial-scale metal 3D printing solution with approved parts for land, sea, air, and space applications.”

“As the most widely scalable metal 3D printing solution in the industry in terms of work envelope, Sciaky’s lineup of EBAM systems can produce parts ranging from 8″ (203 mm) to 19′ [5.79 m] in length,” said Phillips. “EBAM is also the fastest deposition process in the metal additive manufacturing market, with gross deposition rates ranging from seven to 20 lb (3.18–9.07 kg) of metal per hour. EBAM brings quality and control together with IRISS–the Interlayer Real-time Imaging and Sensing System, which is the only real-time adaptive control system in the metal 3D printing market that can sense and digitally self-adjust metal deposition with precision and repeatability. This closed-loop control is the primary reason that Sciaky’s EBAM 3D printing process delivers consistent part geometry, mechanical properties, microstructure, and metal chemistry,” said Phillips.

According to Russ Brown, new business development manager, EBAM technology uses no shield gases and properties of the wire feedstock can be readily changed to meet application requirements. The process features real-time views of the melt pool to help ensure consistency throughout the deposition. EBAM machines are currently installed at Airbus, Lockheed Martin Space Systems and EWI (an engineering and technology organization serving major manufacturing industries). Parts up to 70″ (1.78 m) in diameter can be produced for structural airframe components or even for Invar molds.

For more information from Sciaky, go to, or phone 877-450-2518.

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