NSWC Philadelphia’s 3D virtual dry dock paves way for CVN-78 class carriers

Engineers from the Advanced Data, Prototyping Technologies, and Virtual Environments (ADAPT.VE) Lab at Naval Surface Warfare Center Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) recently completed a project creating 3-Dimensional (3D) point cloud representations of Dry Dock 8 at Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY).

Norfolk’s Dry Dock 8 was selected for the project as it was identified as one of a limited number of shipyard facilities with the capacity sufficient for supporting the new USS Gerald R. Ford class aircraft carriers. The 3D computer model will allow the Navy to manipulate data using existing computer-aided design (CAD) tools to increase shipyard productivity.

The scanning was in support of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) initiative known as Naval Shipyard Innovation Projects. The initiative is in line with NAVSEA’s mission priority to support the on-time delivery of ships and submarines and foster a culture of affordability.

“Norfolk Naval was very interested in have having engineers from the ADAPT.VE lab use laser metrology technology to create a virtual 3D representation of the entire dry dock for planning purposes,” said Caitlin Swec, mechanical engineer, and lead for the scanning project.

ADAPT.VE Lab engineers first scanned the dock using laser metrology equipment. After the data is captured, it is post processed to create a useful end product, such as a 3D CAD object or a point cloud representation. Once an end product was created, it was possible to program future dry dock operations into the model. This allowed for the visualization and study of workflow, leading to recommendations for the optimal placement of hardware. Using this process, facilities and dry dock support services may be planned that will yield the most efficient work-flow for USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).

NNSY saw the potential for use of 3D laser scanning to help streamline various activities in the shipyard, and has recently obtained several scanners. To assist in this transitional effort, Swec created two training documents to aid Norfolk personnel with the use of the equipment. NNSY is now working towards leveraging the technology themselves, to continue streamlining ship maintenance processes.

Over the past five years Patrick Violante, electrical engineer with the lab, has seen the need to expand and strengthen NSWCPD’s network of partners. “As a warfare center, we were one of the first to have our foot in the laser metrology door,” said Violante. “We are also striving to make everyone here, and across the Navy aware of what they can do with this technology.”

Violante has seen the growth in the application of 3D laser scanning since 2011, when NSWCPD acquired its first piece of laser metrology equipment. Now, 3D scanning has become a more common tool across the naval community. As one of the early adopters of 3D scanning capabilities, Violante and other NSWCPD engineers have educated and collaborated with other warfare centers. To foster an environment that strengthens the Navy team, ADAPT.VE engineers collaborate with various warfare centers and use their 3D scanning capabilities to support each other and share data. As the technology behind laser metrology advances, ADAPT.VE engineers will continue to identify and develop applications that provide real-world benefits to the Navy.

NSWCPD provides the Navy’s primary technical expertise for naval machinery research and development and in-service engineering, as well as machinery cybersecurity and lifecycle engineering.