The ElemX 3D printer, at sea on board USS Essex, requires minimal post-processing and provides a faster time-to-part, according to Xerox Elem Additive Solutions. (Photo: Business Wire)

At-sea trials began for the Xerox ElemX 3D metal printer after its installation on the USS Essex

July 18, 2022

NORWALK, Conn., and CARY, N.C.—Xerox® Elem™ Additive Solutions reported that an ElemX liquid metal printer was recently installed on board USS Essex (LHD 2), making it the first metal additive manufacturing machine deployed on a U.S. Naval vessel, the company said in a release.

The ElemX was placed on the ship earlier this summer in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with at-sea trials beginning immediately. The installation is the latest step in the U.S. Navy’s strategy of using additive manufacturing (AM) to increase operational readiness for the fleet. It also builds on the relationship between the U.S. Navy and Xerox Elem Additive. That relationship began when the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California received the first-ever installation of the ElemX in 2020, the company said.

“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 Tali Rosman, general manager of Elem Additive, in the release. “We are proud to continue our partnership with the Navy to help them advance their additive manufacturing capabilities and execute their long-term vision.”

The ElemX leverages Xerox’s liquid metal additive manufacturing technology that uses standard aluminum wire. Unlike other metal 3D printing technologies, ElemX uses no hazardous metal powders, so there is no need for special facility modifications or personal protective equipment to operate the machine. The printer is also said to require minimal post-processing, and therefore provides a faster time-to-part. This ability to produce reliable replacement parts on-demand reduces the dependency on complex global supply chains for deployed forces, the company said.

To withstand various sea states and environmental challenges that U.S. naval warships encounter, the ElemX was installed in an industrial shipping container to ruggedize it. Currently at sea on board USS Essex, trials have begun to establish operational guidelines and technical feasibility studies to determine applications and use cases. A team on board USS Essex will design and print shipboard items and provide feedback to NPS and Commander, Naval Surface Force Pacific (COMNAVSURPAC), according to the release.

The ElemX 3D printer was commercially introduced in February 2021. Since then, Elem Additive Solutions has expanded operations, including opening an Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Cary, North Carolina.

The ElemX is reported to be a safer and simpler metal 3D printer that is engineered to bring simplicity to the supply chain process. It addresses supply chain resiliency for transportation, aerospace, defense, and industrial manufacturing, and is an excellent option for spares, repairs, and low-volume production parts, the company said.

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