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.”
With many of the newer technologies taking shape today, it’s difficult to quantify how they will affect the surrounding industries. The implications of 3D printing or additive manufacturing, for example, are more mysterious than those of say, advanced robotics. The latter will primarily be used to drive automation. 3D printing, on the other hand, is about locally produced goods or components. It’s a little more challenging to define what that means for the future of specific fields.
How will it affect manufacturing? What does that mean for international markets? What about shipping, especially considering 3D printing nearly obliterates the need to source goods remotely (for some goods)? On which goods will 3D printing make an impact? Or will this technology only have a marginal effect on trade flows?
The growth of 3D printing could impact shipping volumes in the region of 10% by 2040 according to research by Singapore academic institutions.
3D printing has been flagged as a disruptor for container shipping replacing offshore manufacturing exported around the globe with products made closer to consumers, or even by consumers themselves at home. However, to date apart from some alarmist presentations, there has been little hard data to quantify what the real future impact of 3D printing might be on the global shipping industry.
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.
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.”