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Morgan Smith, on screen, design engineer for the Robert C. Byrd Institute in Huntington, delivers virtual training to sailors aboard the USS Tulsa in San Diego. The Navy will utilize 3D printing technology to produce components aboard the ship during deployment in the Pacific.

HUNTINGTON — Navy sailors aboard the USS Tulsa now have access to 3D printing technology and the know-how to use it, thanks in part to the Robert C. Byrd Institute at Marshall University and its Apprenticeship Works partner AST2.

The Apprenticeship Works and AST2 (Applied Systems & Technology Transfer) recently provided virtual training to help sailors prepare to use 3D printing technology while at sea, according to a news release from RCBI.

The ship’s captain as well as its chief engineer, Lt. Andrew Bardwell — himself a user of 3D printers at home — asked for volunteers to sign up for the additive manufacturing (3D printing) pre-apprenticeship.

Members of the ship’s crew were taught to set up, operate and maintain LulzBot 3D printers and learned related computer-aided-design (CAD) techniques as well as how to operate Artec precision scanning equipment. Once at sea, sailors will practice what they’ve learned by 3D printing components used on the ship.

Morgan Smith, a design engineer based at RCBI Huntington, delivered CAD training last month via Zoom to Navy personnel aboard the USS Tulsa some 2,200 miles away in San Diego. Before an item can be 3D printed, a drawing must be generated using 3D-modeling software and then transferred to the 3D printer, which reads the data to build the item.

This isn’t the first time RCBI has delivered 3D printing training to Navy personnel, the release said. In 2019, Chris Shaffer, a design engineer based at RCBI in South Charleston, twice flew to California to train sailors to use 3D printers as part of RCBI’s Military Advanced Manufacturing Pre-Apprenticeship Program.

“RCBI has been supporting the U.S. Department of Defense for more than 30 years now, developing supply chain links and delivering access to advanced technologies and creative workforce development solutions to meet the critical mission of the military,” said Charlotte Weber, RCBI director and CEO, in the release. “We’re proud to assist the Navy as it utilizes 3D printing technology to overcome logistical supply chain issues during deployments.”

The Apprenticeship Works initiative supports advanced manufacturing apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships nationwide, including pre-apprenticeships specially for active duty military personnel and veterans.

Apprenticeship Works is supported by an American Apprenticeship Initiative grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. To learn more about the program, contact RCBI Apprenticeship Works Director Lucinda Curry at lcurry@rcbi.org or 304-720-7742.

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