Over the past few months we have seen Aerospace industry embracing 3d printed parts for Airplanes as these parts are stronger and lighter than the ones made with conventional methods. A lighter airplane means lesser fuel consumption and directly means more profit for an industry that is struggling for survival. Looking at these advantages we have seen many other industries looking for options or alternate production methods with also include 3d printing. The latest industry that’s keen to find 3d printing as an alternate production technique is the Ship Building industry.
Dutch Shipbuilders association which has 27 shipyard-related businesses has tied up with NLR (National Aerospace Laboratory) to find ways to use 3d Printing. This project was taken by InnovationQuarter, the Harbor of Rotterdam and RDM Makerspace, who only recently signed the agreement. NLR is an independent knowledge and research institute in the Netherlands, and they specialize in aerospace innovation and finding ways to develop sustainable solutions for a very broad range of technical applications using the latest technologies. NLR would be making 3D Printed parts for ships and do rigorous scientific testing to find the best material and production techniques that are suitable to be used for ships doing long voyages.
Initial testing’s done by NLR would be to make 3d Printed parts for 4 Ships; the actual numbers would increase to 30 over the time. The 3D Printed parts would include screws, washers and liquid conductors. All the 3D Printed parts mentioned are extremely important hence they would undergo extreme testing for months. Ships have to face high seas for months and hence these 3d printed parts would have to pass months of stability, rigidity and strength test under harsh conditions.
The 3d Printed parts also need to be economically viable, and should be able to mass produced. Hence NLR would have some tough job ahead with them and they plan to release their first test result in the month of September and based on the results make plans to adopt 3D printed parts.
Robert van Herwaarden from AEGIR-Marine Production said ‘Innovation is one of our priorities and we were already exploring 3D printing for our business. Joining this consortium was, therefore, a natural thing to do. I found that the selection of the final 4 products was a learning process by itself. What can be 3D printed? When is it profitable and what are the benefits?’
Adding to this Paul Arendsen from NLR said that “Speed is speed is key when a ship is harbored on the other side of the planet and is in desperate need of a very specific spare part. 3D printing would obviously be a prime candidate to solve that issue in as little time as possible. But on a larger scale, these tests are set to serve as the basis for a database that will enable maritime partners to easily review and select various materials, production methods and finishing technologies in the near future. This will, they hope, offer participants the possibility to concretely and accurately judge new technological possibilities in the near future. ‘For the NLR this is also a great way to get familiar with testing practices in the maritime world.”
We all wait to see the results of these experimental 3d printed parts which would be presented during the World Harbor Days in Rotterdam in September. These results would decide the fate of use of 3d Printing for the Maritime industry, we are optimistic that it will conquer the Seven Seas.