When Chris Davis, a tool engineer at HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding division, designed an upgrade for a spotface cutting tool needed for work aboard John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), it represented half of a success story. His design still needed to come to life.

The conventional manufacturing route would have taken weeks, but meeting schedule requirements for CVN 79 required a faster, more efficient approach without sacrificing quality.

Deputy Chief Engineer John Ralls and his additive manufacturing team took it from there, using 3D printing to manufacture the main body of the specialized cutting tool in a matter of days.

“It is alternate fabrication method that is able to rapidly produce tools of high precision, in order to support the end product,” Ralls said. “In this case, we were able to take the digital tool design from Chris Davis, and print the part in a matter of days.”

The new design utilizes carbide inserts that can be rotated or changed out, versus the old cutter, which is made from tool steel and had to be sharpened nearly daily. The spotface cutting tool, needed for work on CVN 79, is expected to save thousands of man-hours over time.

“This tool example demonstrates the benefit of long-term strategic thinking,” Ralls said. “Newport News Shipbuilding has taken a leadership role in specific technologies, additive manufacturing being one of them. We have removed numerous roadblocks that have enabled us to support emergent parts like this spotface cutting tool.”

If others have suggestions or ideas on how additive manufacturing can improve processes at NNS, Ralls and his team would love to hear it.

“What are the problems out there that we can help solve, like with this spotface cutting tool? This is just one example,” he said. “We want to continue to be thought leaders of this technology in the industry.”