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.
Over the past few years additive manufacturing (AM) technology has grown in popularity as companies explore its potential. Applying layer upon layer of polymers can create objects of almost any shape and geometry guided by design files, and now, recent developments have made it possible to print metal parts and components, making it a potentially disruptive innovation for the supply chain.
AM has already had an impact on other industries such as aviation—Airbus agreed in October to a deal to manufacture polymer parts for use on its A350 XWB aircraft—and now, as oil and gas companies look to adopt AM into their supply chain management, service companies are breaking through with new machines and processes that may facilitate larger-scale production of parts and components in the future. In addition, a new guideline has been established to help bridge the gap between the quality assurance of parts created by an AM process and those created through traditional manufacturing processes.
3D printing for ships is gaining steam. In the U.S., the navy is holding a number of trials for both offshore and yard-based tooling and also investigating 3D printing spare parts. And wire-arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) has become increasingly used in the Netherlands for producing large, sea-faring and rig components.
Now, Spanish ship builder Navantia has launched a 3D printed parts trial aboard the Monte Udala Suezmax oil tanker.
The unlimited ship
Suezmax tankers are built to the largest ship measurements capable of transiting Egypt’s Suez Canal. While not constrained by length, Suezmax tankers are typically 50 meters wide, and can be up to 68 meters tall.
In 2015, Navantia was commissioned by Ondimar to build four of these supertankers to specifications of 274 m by 48 m (L x W). Looking for ways to innovate the process, Navantia is collaborating with the INNANOMAT (Materials and Nanotechnology Innovation) lab at the University of Cádiz (UCA).
“One technology that is starting to change production is 3-D printing. 3-D printing enables not only totally new designs but also manufacture-to-order in a new way.”
Wolfgang Lehmacher, head of supply chain and transport industry, World Economic Forum, outlined six trends of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that are disrupting the Shipping Industry at the JOC’s TPM Asia conference in Shenzhen.
SHENZHEN — Disruption is unavoidable for container shipping as multiple technologies converge with unprecedented speed, requiring a complete revision of strategies to deal with the opportunities and threats facing the transport industry.
In a keynote address to TPM Asia in Shenzhen, Wolfgang Lehmacher, head of supply chain and transport industry at the World Economic Forum, described six trends caused by what is known as the Forth Industrial Revolution (4IR) that is disrupting world shipping.
“The world will significantly change,” he said. “The shipping industry has been impacted by the previous industrial revolutions: It moved from sail-powered shipping to steam-powered shipping in the First Industrial Revolution, to oil-powered shipping in the Second, to satellite guided navigation and digital transport in the Third. The [4IR] is expected to bring to the sector networks of autonomous vehicles.”