The U.S. Marine Corps is asking industry to propose advanced and innovative manufacturing technologies to help it develop its next generation of ship-to-shore vessels.
"We're believe that additive manufacturing – or 3D printing – might be a big part of it," explains Major Matthew Friedell of the U.S. Marines' Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell.
"At the moment we don't have any ship-to-shore vessels coming up in the budget – but what if we need them suddenly and quickly…?”
The Marines' preference is for a craft of around 40ft long – but there is no specification for what kind of material it should be made from, or where it would be built.
Friedell adds: "We're envisioning, if the Navy won’t do this for us, how could we do this for ourselves? How could we use advanced technologies to plug a gap that is very critical in the Marine Corps' mission?"
The tender calls for a rapid turnaround – with the concepts submitted by the end of the year.
Testing with scale models will follow before final assessments of full-sized designs.
The U.S. Marines have already fielded more than 160 3D printers in the last three years – used by its ground units and aviation squadrons to print structures and replacement parts.
Last December, they completed the first 3D-printed bridge built in the US.