Ship Building Is Making the Transition to 3D

Ship building is being transformed from 2D paper to 3D digital models. Even decades-old aircraft carriers are being mapped onto digital models at Newport News Shipbuilding.

From an article in Defense One.

Image of Ship Building in 3D

Ship Building in 3D (Chris Oxley, Huntington Ingalls Industries

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — When the USS George Washington took shape here in the late 1980s, endless paper blueprints guided the welders and shipfitters of Newport News Shipbuilding. Now, with the aircraft carrier back in a drydock for its midlife overhaul, shipyard workers are laser-scanning its spaces and bulkheads.

They’re compiling a digital model of the 104,000-ton carrier, which will allow subsequent Nimitz-class projects to be designed and planned on computers. That will help bring the shipyard’s carrier-overhaul work in line with its digital design-and-manufacturing processes that are already speeding up construction and maintenance on newer vessels.

Newport News executives say these digital shipbuilding concepts are revolutionizing the way ships are designed and built.

“We want to leverage technology, learn by doing and really drive it to the deckplates,” Chris Miner, vice president of in-service carriers, said during a tour of the shipyard. This is the future. This isn’t about if. This is where we need to go.”

“The new shipbuilders coming in, they’re not looking for you to hand them a 30-page or a 200-page drawing,” Miner said. “We’re really transitioning how we train folks and how we do things as far as getting them proficient.”

This digital data will “transform the business,” said Miner.

The technology is spreading beyond the shipbuilding sector. Boeing used digital tools to design a new pilot training jet for the Air Force and an aerial refueling drone from the Navy. The Air Force is planning to evaluate new engines for its B-52 bombers, nearly six-decade-old planes, using digital tools. The technology is allowing companies to build weapons faster than traditional manufacturing techniques.

Engineers here at Newport News Shipbuilding are already using digital blueprints to design ships, but they plan to expand the use of the technology into manufacturing in the coming years.

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