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    Keyport Innovation Center helps rescue cables from obsolescence

    Keyport Innovation Center helps rescue cables from obsolescence

    Photo By Public Affairs Office | A 3D printer at the Keyport Innovation Center onboard Naval Undersea Warfare Center...... read more read more



    Story by Frank Kaminski 

    Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Keyport

    The Keyport Innovation Center onboard Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division, Keyport is a collaborative space where individuals from across the command can partner, share knowledge, and foster a culture of innovation and growth.

    In a testament to collaborative ingenuity, the KIC recently assisted engineers from the command’s Acoustic Countermeasures Department in an effort to revolutionize the repair of cables for outboard launcher assemblies on naval vessels.

    These cables sometimes experience issues with debonding, which occurs when their components begin to separate or detach. Due to the high cost of repairing debonded cables, they’re currently being discarded and replaced. This poses a significant cost to the Navy, as the cables are valued at $20,000 apiece and are becoming increasingly difficult to produce as their designs grow older, according to NUWC Division, Keyport Mechanical Engineer Joshua Lee, who is among the engineers working to address the problem.

    Lee said he and his colleagues first learned of the debonding issue a couple of years ago. Electronics Engineer Brandon Bauer, a coworker of Lee’s in Acoustic Countermeasures, was tasked with investigating the cause and developing a potential solution.

    The solution he arrived at was to take the cables to a local shop, such as the command’s Intermediate Maintenance Activity, where their resin covering—referred to as “potting”—would be stripped away and reapplied. The problem was that there was no way to do this in practice, since there were no molds with which to ensure a precise and consistent application of the potting.

    Lee was eventually tasked with developing a mold, and this is where the KIC, with its broad array of 3D printing capabilities and expert guidance, came in. Lee said the equipment, expertise and support available to him at the KIC were instrumental in facilitating the iterative process of designing and testing a 3D-printed potting mold.

    “Having access to the KIC has been really nice, because I’m able to quickly turn parts and ideas around, test stuff and see if something works,” said Lee. “If a part fails during the print process, I can just go back and remake it. That’s an excellent convenience.”

    It’s a convenience that has resulted in substantial cost and time savings for Lee’s department. According to Lee’s estimates, his department would have had to spend $8,000 to $10,000 on printed parts, along with months of lead time, producing his cable mold through an outside vendor rather than in-house, he said.

    The wide selection of printers at the KIC, including a high-speed one for rapid prototyping and others capable of printing with specialized materials, has been crucial in Lee’s efforts to test the printability of various features of the mold and ensure a proper fit of all its parts, he said.

    Lee added that the insights he’s gained through his interactions with seasoned 3D printing enthusiasts he’s met at the KIC have been a huge help.

    KIC Director Jacob Snow said Lee’s experience exemplifies the KIC's mission of offering experiential learning opportunities for emerging capabilities while also delivering tangible benefits to departments and the command as a whole.

    “What we’re doing with Josh is kind of the whole goal of the KIC,” said Snow. “Josh didn’t have tons of 3D printing experience. And so he came in, and we’ve really been able to help him understand things like design considerations when you’re modeling something for 3D printing, as well as what settings matter, what dimensions matter. He’s been able to get a whole lot of extra insight into 3D printing [and in the process] help save the government money.”

    While the mold is currently still in prototype form, Lee said he expects to have it finalized and ready for use on actual cables within the next couple of weeks.

    Beyond creating a functional mold design, Lee hopes to enable repair locations to produce molds locally using CAD files and their own facilities, thus saving money by eliminating the need to procure and ship molds.


    About Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Keyport
    NUWC Division, Keyport provides advanced technical capabilities for test and evaluation, in-service engineering, maintenance and industrial base support, fleet material readiness, and obsolescence management for undersea warfare to expand America’s undersea dominance.



    Date Taken: 01.25.2024
    Date Posted: 01.25.2024 14:36
    Story ID: 462441
    Location: KEYPORT, WA, US

    Web Views: 250
    Downloads: 1