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Creating the Fleet Maker: a 3D Printing-centered STEM Learning Environment for the Stimulation of Innovative Thinking and Empowerment of Sailors

By M.A. Audette, V. Jovanovic, O. Bilgen, K. Arcaute, and A.W. Dean

This paper describes an ONR-funded project, “Creating the Fleet Maker” dedicated to the skill development and STEM education of active-duty Navy personnel. This effort will provide a workforce development platform for training of sailors to be capable of reverse-engineering and 3D-printing components while onboard of ship. While far away from any supply chain point, an insufficiency of components needed for maintenance and successful mission continuation can threaten the essential function and successful operation of ship systems. The wait for parts might be much longer than it would be if the similar situation were to happen in any civilian engineering system. Hence, the project team is interested in using the Maker approach for workforce development of active-duty military personnel. Fifteen Fleet Maker Workshops will be developed, executed, and assessed at the Old Dominion University Monarch Maker Laboratory. These workshops will serve Navy servicemen to 1) increase their skills related to the concepts of making such as computer-aided design, reverse engineering, additive manufacturing, product lifecycle management and part retrieval, 2) foster STEM knowledge and professional development, 3) introduce skills needed for opportunities in advanced manufacturing, and 4) empower them to solve problems through a creative design approach. Ultimately, active duty personnel will acquire the skills needed for successful on-board maintenance of naval vessels and other problem-solving scenarios. This project is aligned with a nationwide initiative, led by the President, focused on professional development of American workforce that thrives through technological developments especially in additive manufacturing. Rapid prototyping, or 3D printing, started in 1980’s and recently gained attention for Navy fabrication shops supported by sailors that solve logistic problems on the fly. As rapid prototyping costs continue to decrease, these technologies become more accessible for educators. Also, this project also emphasizes reverse engineering techniques based on affordable, portable range-sensing and computer-assisted design.