It usually takes the Navy around 5 months to build even the smallest submarines to ferry Navy SEALs into and out of combat zones — but thanks to new technology, the Navy's most elite warfighters could slap together a submersible hull in just a few weeks.
That’s the promise behind the Optionally Manned Technology Demonstrator (OMTD), the U.S. military’s first 3-D printed submarine hull, unveiled by the Navy on July 24. Fabricated by the high-tech Big Area Additive Manufacturing 3-D printing machine at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the 30-ft submersible hull was inspired by the SEAL Delivery Vehicles used by the branch and U.S. Special Operations Command to deploy Navy special warriors and their gear into particularly dangerous areas.
But while traditional SEAL submarines cost up to $800,000 apiece and take 3 to 5 months to manufacture, six carbon-fiber composite sections of the OTMD took less than a month and only $60,000 to assemble, according to the Department of Energy — a shift that the Navy claims could massively reduce production costs.
The Department of Defense and global defense industry have put a premium on 3-D printing (or “additive manufacturing,” if you want to be technical) for years, ranging from Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center’s fabricated “RAMBO” grenade launcher to portable printing units designed to help Marines repair essential gear faster downrange.