3D printers the key to solutions at sea

8 May 2024

Together, a 3D printer and an innovative technician have kept even the most troublesome inconveniences at bay for HMAS Warramunga. In fact, they have even created a few upgrades.

Acquired in early 2023, this new capability stands out in the workshop on the Anzac-class frigate, and is quickly becoming the go-to tool to replace small parts as soon as they’re needed. 

From push-to-talk buttons and microphone holders to washing machine handles and a door chock for the coffee machine, almost every area and section of Warramunga has benefitted from the printer. 

Leading Seaman Nicholas Parks said the 3D printer was a new tool that sailors and engineers could use to rectify problems.

“I think it encourages them to think outside the box and to find innovative and creative solutions to often challenging puzzles,” he said.

The machine works by loading a 3D model of the item you need into its software. The item is then broken down into a layer-by-layer file that the printer understands. The printer then melts plastic and places it onto the bed layer-by-layer until the item is complete.

Even though the parts are made from plastic, they are quite reliable. The sturdiness and reliability of the products vary depending on the settings used for each print.

3D printers were only introduced to the fleet in the past few years, but innovative technicians like Leading Seaman Parks are readily embracing them. The main benefit for the ship’s company is that the printer can create small-level components – such as buttons and switches – faster than they can get them from the stores. 

While Leading Seaman Parks admitted he was still learning how to get the most from the new capability, he said he felt energised being a part of an ever-innovating Navy.

“It most certainly wasn’t in the job description when I signed up, but it’s definitely a welcome addition. It shows that the RAN is willing to embrace and try out new technologies to further enhance the capabilities of the fleet and our Navy.” 


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