UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center produces world’s largest 3D-printed logistics vessel for U.S. Department of Defense

Two 3D-printed vessels capable of transporting two shipping containers and a Marine rifle squad with three days of supplies mark groundbreaking composite manufacturing milestone

Orono, Maine — The University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center has achieved a groundbreaking milestone in composite manufacturing with the production of two 3D-printed prototype logistics vessels for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Marine Corps Systems Command’s Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell (AMOC), in collaboration with the UMaine Composites Center, used advanced manufacturing techniques to successfully develop the expendable polymeric composite ship-to-shore vessels. The longer of the two vessels, the largest ever 3D-printed, simulates ship-to-shore movement of 20-foot containers representing equipment and supplies. The second vessel can transport a Marine rifle-squad with organic equipment and three days of supplies. The prototypes can be connected, maximizing the transport capability of a single-tow vehicle.

The ship-to-shore logistics vessels align with the 38th Commandant of Marine Corps Gen. David Berger’s vision to “seek the affordable and plentiful at the expense of the exquisite and few when conceiving of the future amphibious portion of the fleet,” due to relatively low-cost, speed and ease of production.

“Our national security and economic security depend on an innovative and robust American manufacturing base,” said Barbara K. McQuiston, director of Defense Research and Engineering for Research and Technology, Office of the Secretary of Defense. “I applaud the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center for their pioneering work in the field of additive manufacturing. The advancements made here will bolster domestic manufacturing and ultimately support our warfighters in the field.”

Joining McQuiston for the unveiling Feb. 25 at the UMaine Composites Center were U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, U.S. Department of Defense leadership and University of Maine officials. 

“In 2019, UMaine unveiled the world’s largest 3D-printed object — a 25-foot patrol boat. Today, we celebrated the creation of 3D-printed vessels that will be more than twice as large and represent the next remarkable leap in innovation by UMaine,” said Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representative Jared Golden in a statement. “This accomplishment is a prime example of how UMaine is leading the nation in large-scale additive manufacturing technology. These new boats continue the Composite Center’s contributions to our national defense and will help fuel new breakthroughs in advanced manufacturing that will create good jobs here in Maine.” 

Photo of U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, U.S. Department of Defense leadership and University of Maine officials at the Feb. 25 event celebrating the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center's production of the world’s largest 3D-printed logistics vessel for the U.S. Department of Defense.
U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, U.S. Department of Defense leadership and University of Maine officials participated in the Feb. 25 event celebrating the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center’s production of the world’s largest 3D-printed logistics vessel for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Using traditional materials and methods, landing craft utility vessels can take over one year to produce. The UMaine Composites Center printed and assembled one of the two vessels in a month. The vessels were produced using the world’s largest polymer 3D printer, which the center commissioned on Oct. 10, 2019, earning three Guinness World Records

To demonstrate the printer’s capabilities, the Composites Center 3D-printed a 5,000-pound boat, 3Dirigo, in 72 hours, and printed a U.S. Army communications shelter in 48 hours. The printer, with both additive and precise subtractive manufacturing capabilities, enables rapid prototyping for both defense and civilian applications.

“This project demonstrates the art of the possible and the potential for AM to fundamentally alter how we think about connectors and their role in mobility and distribution within a contested environment,” said LtGen Edward Banta, Deputy Commandant – Installation & Logistics, U.S. Marine Corps.

“As the Marine Corps seeks to modernize logistics to better respond to current and future conflicts, advancements in additive manufacturing will ensure we remain agile, lethal and expeditionary,” said William Williford, executive director of Marine Corps Systems Command.

The latest project to create the two 3D-printed logistics vessels is a significant milestone toward demonstrating advanced manufacturing techniques to rapidly constitute critical DOD assets closer to the point of need. The previously successful prototype was 3D printed in 2020, made from 25% aluminum. The vessels manufactured by the UMaine Composites Center are multimaterial composites with engineering polymer and fiber reinforcement.

“The University of Maine is at the forefront of cutting-edge research and high-impact technologies, including advanced manufacturing, AI and 3D printing important for industries in Maine and beyond,” said University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “These prototype vessels are the latest innovations from the Composites Center that demonstrate the future of manufacturing. This is an exciting time for Maine’s Carnegie R1 research enterprise. Congratulations to the talented group of faculty, staff and students for this milestone achievement.” 

“The leadership, vision and innovation of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center continue to make a difference in Maine and worldwide,” said UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy, vice chancellor for research and innovation for the University of Maine System. “The center’s research and development capacity in collaboration with partners in Maine and beyond, its problem-solving capabilities and focus on workforce development are an important part of our Carnegie R1 top-tier research institution.”

“Two years ago, we demonstrated that it was possible to 3D print a 25-foot patrol vessel in three days. Since then, partnering with the DOD, we have been improving material properties, speeding up the printing process and connecting our printer with high-performance computers that can monitor the print. With these tools in place, we have now printed a prototype vessel that will be tested by the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC). The Advanced Structures and Composites Center is at the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing research and development, advancing state-of-the-art technologies like large-scale additive manufacturing and high-performance computing to develop practical, rapidly deployable and cost-effective solutions for defense and civilian applications,” said Habib Dagher, executive director of the UMaine Composites Center. “We thank our partners at the DOD, USMC, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) and our Congressional delegation for their continued support. Today’s groundbreaking achievement couldn’t have been possible if not for the tremendous effort of our dedicated team of 260 ASCC faculty researchers, staff and students.”

“These demonstration vessels represent an initial step toward defining future forward manufacturing capabilities, and also a balance between expendable system cost, performance and ease of manufacture,” said Kyle Warren, UMaine senior program manager and principal investigator on the project.

The Advanced Structures and Composites Center is a world-leading interdisciplinary center for research, education and economic development, encompassing material sciences, advanced manufacturing and engineering of composites and structures. Housed in a 100,000-square-foot ISO-17025-accredited facility, the center has been recognized nationally and internationally for cutting-edge research programs leading and impacting new industries, including offshore wind and marine energy, civil infrastructure, biobased composites, large-scale 3D printing, soldier protection systems and innovative defense-related applications.

The Marine Corps’ AMOC, established in 2019, conducts testing, experimentation and analysis to source innovative techniques and leverage advanced manufacturing technology. AMOC also provides 24/7 3D printing help desk support for the Fleet Marine Force and all equipment program offices.

Contact: Meghan Collins,