Full Speed Ahead: Using Additive Manufacturing to Repair Ships at Sea

When a ship runs into trouble at sea, it can be time-consuming and disruptive to take it ashore to get it fixed. A team of UConn engineers has now developed a way for a ship’s crew to pinpoint the exact location of any mechanical trouble on board and, instead of taking the ship offline for maintenance, to repair or replace the part while the ship is still at sea.

The researchers, led by associate professor of materials science and engineering Rainer Hebert, have created a device that uses ceramics on additively manufactured metals to obtain signals about degradation or certain other potential problems, such as overheating. They are also developing a field-deployable manufacturing process that could produce replacement parts from electronic files using a 3-D printer on board ship after the metal-ceramic parts indicate failure or problems.

The new device can simultaneously carry the weight and resist temperature variants of existing components. (A change in temperature can signal a potential problem.) It then generates an electrical signal that alerts crew members, in real time, to the change in temperature and the amount of strain placed on that part.

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