The Bundeswehr, which is repeatedly criticized for its poor state of equipment, is now providing spare parts on site as a test Frigate Saxony here. In a test lasting several days on the North Sea, it is to be checked whether machine and equipment parts produced by FDM printing can also be produced in sufficient quality under the special conditions of a warship.
Manufacturing parts using 3D printing, which is already routine in the automotive and railway industries as well as in aerospace (e.g. at Airbus), is much more difficult on ships because of the conditions prevailing there: the salt content of the air and the ship movements as well Vibrations from the drive often have a disruptive effect. On the other hand, using the ships, which are very powerful with more than 53,000 HP, is extremely expensive for the German Armed Forces. Aborting a mission and prematurely returning to the supply of spare parts due to a lack of spare parts would drastically increase this.
The U.S. Navy recently installed its first 3D printer aboard one of its vessels in a program designed to test the capabilities of the technology and its potential contribution to enhancing maintenance aboard active duty vessels. The Navy joins with the commercial shipping industry which has also been looking at the capabilities of 3D printing and tested the first parts for ships made with the technology.
The 3D printing system was recently placed aboard the USS Essex, a Wasp-class Landing Helicopter Dock currently based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Commissioned in 1992, the amphibious assault ship is testing the technology while it is currently participating in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 training exercise.
“Having this printer aboard will essentially accelerate, enhance, and increase our warfighting readiness,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nicolas Batista, the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD) officer aboard the Essex. “The capabilities of the 3D printer will enable Essex to become more self-sufficient.”
The maritime sector is one of the more overlooked segments in 3D printing, with only a handful of companies really taking advantage of the opportunities there. A new business involved in 3D printing for naval uses has made itself known, Austal Australia, who, along with its partners, AML3D (ASX:AML) and Western Australia’s Curtin University, has 3D printed an aluminum personnel recovery davit. The device has been verified by DNV, the world’s largest classification society at its Global Additive Manufacturing Technology Centre of Excellence in Singapore.
According to international and naval specifications, Austal, AML3D and Curtin University produced a three-meter-long crane, also known as a davit, designed for personnel recovery. The assembly was then tested to support over two times its intended working load. This was followed by non-destructive and destructive testing. The testing process included microanalysis of the microstructure of the aluminum parts, with mechanical and corrosion properties compared to those of traditional marine grade materials.
Singapore’s Keppel Offshore & Marine, in partnership with Nanyang Technological University and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), has been awarded Lloyd’s Register (LR) Certification for its laser aided additive manufacturing system to produce offshore grade steel.
The certification conforms to the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) A131 requirements following an audit and successful mechanical testing.
“This certification is the first step for us to produce high-value components essential to the offshore and marine structures. Additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing as it is more commonly known will speed up production times which in turn can help bring projects to completion much quicker,” said Aziz Merchant, Executive Director, Keppel Marine & Deepwater Technology.
MERCHANT ships are massive — often spanning a few hundred feet — and have thousands of moving parts.
Given the progress made by cross-border trade and commerce post-globalization, and the recent rise of e-commerce, more than 50,000 ships undertake nearly half-a-million voyages every year.
To avoid catastrophes while at sea, merchant ships need to be serviced often. One of the major costs that merchant ship owners have to account for when it comes to maintenance is the inventory cost of spare parts given the number of spares that must be carried at any given time.
The other challenge to effective maintenance is that ships travel from one port to another during its voyage. If something needs to be repaired when it is not at its home, spares must be sent to the port where it is docked.
The Marine Products division of global maritime industry group Wilhelmsen has launched a program to supply 3D printed spare parts on demand to ships and other vessels. Part of an ongoing collaboration with advanced and additive manufacturing service bureau Ivaldi Group, the service is exclusively open to a group of six early-adopters.
Advantages promoted by the program include the elimination of physical inventory, streamlining complex distribution, and a reduction of associated costs. “The savings from reduced cost, time and environmental footprint provided by 3D printing, digital inventory and on-demand localized manufacturing of maritime spare parts is a tremendous opportunity for our valued subscribers to be ahead of their rivals,” comments Hakon Ellekjaer, Head of Venture, 3D Printing at Wilhelmsen, adding:
“WE BELIEVE ON-DEMAND MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGIES ARE GOING TO COMPLETELY RESHAPE THE MARITIME SUPPLY CHAIN.”
German multinational engineering group Thyssenkrupp has obtained certification for its supply of metal 3D printed products. The company’s Approval of Manufacturer certificate is the first ever to be awarded by leading quality assurance and risk management firm DNV GL. With the accreditation, the recently opened Thyssenkrupp TechCenter Additive Manufacturing is now approved for application in maritime and other industrial sectors.
“Producing components that have the same level of quality as conventionally manufactured parts and fulfil class requirements is key,” comments Geir Dugstad, Director of Ship Classification & Technical Director of DNV GL – Maritime, “At DNV GL, we are very pleased to certify that the Thyssenkrupp TechCenter Additive Manufacturing has demonstrated its ability to reliably produce metallic materials using additive manufacturing,”
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has the potential to transform the maritime equipment supply chain. With the adoption of technology enabling printing in metal, vital spare parts and system components can now be printed on demand in locations around the world, including on vessels themselves. The result is dramatically reduced lead times, costs, labour needs, stock requirements and environmental impact (with less logistics and less waste), as well as the complete disruption of traditional business models.
And that’s just the supply side. The impact on manufacturing capability is just as radical. Suddenly the constraints of traditional processes can be broken, with machines bringing previously impossible designs to life through the precise application of layer upon layer of metals. For the frontrunners in maritime manufacturing, such as Wärtsilä Moss AS (a division of Wärtsilä Marine Solutions), it represents a special kind of magic.
“We came up with a new design that could only be realized with AM fabrication,” he explains. “The geometry of the part, the complexity involved in producing it, makes it far too difficult and expensive to manufacture using traditional methods. It can only be brought to life with AM.”
The US Navy has conducted Print Sprint II event in San Diego to encourage the use of 3D printing technology at naval shipyards to support fleets.
Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Tactical Innovation Implementation Lab (TIIL) organised the event designed to enable navy maintenance providers to work collaboratively to develop new 3D printing solutions and applications.
Print Sprint II comes after the first print sprint was conducted last year at Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Keyport to gauge the fleet and shipyards’ abilities to create a random part in a short time through additive manufacturing.
The maritime industry may not yet be at the same stage as, say, the aerospace or automotive industries in terms of additive manufacturing adoption, but there have been some tangible steps on the parts of shipping companies, ship manufacturers and port authorities to explore and accelerate the use of maritime additive manufacturing applications. On the marine side, as well, additive manufacturing is increasingly being used to produce custom or small batch components for yachts and sailboats.
As with any new technology adoption, the maritime and marine segments are currently experiencing a lot of “firsts” with 3D printing. As part of our AM Focus this month, we’re going to take a look at some of the most exciting and boundary-pushing announcements in the intersecting maritime and AM sectors.