Additive Manufacturing (AM) is one the latest innovation in manufacturing and a revolutionary tool across multiple industries. AM is now increasingly used to to produce high-performance metal parts intended for end-use in demanding applications since it has the potential to shrink the supply chain and lead times for specialized and complex parts, thus introducing new efficiencies driven by design innovation, reduced manufacturing time, and improvements in part availability.
AM has already found its place in the aerospace, automotive and medical sector and now there have been some tangible steps on the part of ship manufacturers to explore and accelerate the use of maritime additive manufacturing applications. Furthermore, in the marine industry, AM is used to produce custom or small batch components for yachts and sailboats.
As a result, both marine and maritime sectors showcase a lot of “firsts” with AM.
The first example was introduced in February 2018 by Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding (HII-NNS) who delivered the first ever metal 3D printed part to be installed aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) warship.
Engineers at Europe’s largest port – Rotterdam – are already investing in the use of additive manufacturing processes to quickly carry out repairs to damaged ships. The port has opened the Rotterdam Additive Manufacturing Lab (RAMLAB), an on-site facility that includes a pair of six-axis robotic arms, which is capable of additive manufacturing of large metal industrial parts.
Additionally, in 2018, a Dutch crane manufacturer is reported to have printed a 3D offshore crane hook, which successfully passed its load test and all associated control checks.
What’s more, last October, Singapore Maritime and Port Authority announced the first on-site AM facility for port applications. The facility will be located at the Pasir Panjang Terminal and will be equipped with a range of state-of-the-art 3D printing systems.
Exciting news for the maritime industry was also announced in February 2019, when Naval Group and Centrale Nantes 3D printed the first demonstrator of hollow propeller blades using metal AM. The achievement was part of the European H2020 project RAMSSES, which aims to reduce the environmental impact of ships.
CEAD is one of the manufacturers of large 3D printers for CFRP and GFRP products.
Although engineering grade materials are the most exciting part of latest AM developments, “Classical” applications of 3D printing are still offering impressive capabilities in modelling, prototyping, feasibility analysis, physical simulation and production support.