Special Report: Can 3D printing save the fleet?

DANVILLE, Va. ­— A new building with a glass facade sits in a largely empty industrial park here in rural Southside Virginia.

Inside, there’s no steam, no smoke and no soot. No sparks fly. No hot metals are poured. No echoing bangs of a hammer on an anvil.

Rather, it’s all white. White floors, white walls, white machines generating white noise as they print and finish small metal parts. It’s a far cry from a traditional factory churning out submarine components.

But U.S. Navy officials say this building, the Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence, represents the future of the submarine industry — and perhaps the service’s only path to building the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine and Virginia-class attack submarine on time.

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