Navy photo

Life at sea is full of improvising. Ships can only carry so much stuff, and can’t easily go to a warehouse for spare parts, so when something is broken or doesn’t quite work right, the crew has to find a solution with what they have on hand. With a 3-D printer on board, that improvisation becomes really easy, as the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman are finding out. One of two U.S. Navy ships deployed to the Middle East with 3-D printers, the utility of the device seems immediately apparent.

Thinking decades ahead, the Navy has big plans for 3-D printing, like making human tissue on demand for medical emergencies, or custom-printing drones and missiles as a mission requires. For now, though, the printer is solving much simpler tasks, like lost caps and awkward funnels.

From the Virginia Pilot

Parts are designed with computers in the fabrication station, and printed to order right on board. It’s a pretty great solution to an ancient sailor’s problem.

Watch a short video about it below: