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By A.J. Roan
Metal Tech News 

Xerox ElemX sets sail aboard USS Essex

First-ever seafaring 3D printer for US Navy helicopter carrier Metal Tech News – July 20, 2022


Last updated 7/26/2022 at 2:41pm

The USS Essex is a Landing Helicoptor Dock type ship.

U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg

The Wasp-class Landing Helicopter Dock USS Essex has become the first U.S. naval vessel to install a metal 3D printer.

In a world's first, Xerox' ElemX liquid metal printer was installed aboard the USS Essex, becoming the first metal 3D printer deployed on a United States naval vessel.

Installed earlier this month in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the addition of a metal 3D printer is part of the U.S. Navy's strategy of using additive manufacturing to increase operational readiness for fleets.

This move also builds on the relationship between the U.S. Navy and Xerox that began with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, receiving the first-ever installation of the ElemX in 2020.

You can read about the previous collaboration between Xerox and the Naval Postgraduate School at Xerox teams up with Navy for 3D printingin the February 10, 2021, edition of Metal Tech News.

"The military supply chain is among the most complex in the world and putting the ElemX on USS Essex means that sailors can now bypass that complexity and print parts when and where they need them," said General Manager of Xerox Elem Additive, Tali Rosman. "We are proud to continue our partnership with the Navy to help them advance their additive manufacturing capabilities and execute their long-term vision."

Leveraging Xerox' liquid metal additive manufacturing technology, the ElemX uses standard aluminum wire, and unlike other metal 3D printing technologies, there are no hazardous metal powders with ElemX and no need for special facility modifications or personal protective equipment to operate the machine.

Xerox' ElemX liquid metal printer inside of a shipping container on USS Essex.


The Xerox ElemX liquid metal printer was mounted inside a shipping container to provide additional protection.

The printer also requires minimal post-processing and therefore provides a faster time-to-part, a necessary aspect of military readiness. This ability to produce reliable replacement parts on-demand also reduces the dependency on complex global supply chains for deployed forces.

To withstand various sea states and environmental challenges that U.S. naval warships encounter, the ElemX was installed in an industrial shipping container to further weatherproof and provide an added layer of ruggedness.

Currently at sea on board the USS Essex, trials have already begun to establish operational guidelines and technical feasibility studies to determine applications and use cases. Additionally, a team on board the ship will design and print shipboard items and provide feedback to NPS and Commander, Naval Surface Force Pacific.


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