Rotterdam 3D-Prints Propeller
Rotterdam Port’s lab has revealed a small, model ship’s propeller built using a new technique that incorporates 3D-printing as its laboratory aims for faster ship repairs.
Additive manufacturing laboratory RAMLAB is working with engineering software provider Autodesk to create a ship’s propeller “on demand”.
The next step will be manufacturing a final, to scale, version of the propeller for installing on a ship belonging to a project partner in the summer of 2017.
Ahead of this, the port partners have made a model propeller using a hybrid manufacturing process combining wire and arc additive manufacturing, a term that describes “layering” manufacturing techniques like 3D printing.
Hybrid manufacturing combines this layering with CNC machining to build metal parts relatively quickly.
It requires industrial robotic arms and incorporates subtractive machining and grinding techniques.
With the project, Rotterdam Port aims to prevent ships from being stuck in ports for long periods during repairs. It handles over 460 million tons of cargo a year, so it is critical that its facility and ships are not delayed.
Vessels coming into port needing replacement parts may have to wait weeks or months until the part is delivered.
Waiting costs shipping companies millions of dollars, as they may pay to host large stockpiles of parts in warehouses.
RAMLAB works with a network of hardware and software partners, academic and certification institutions, but Autodesk is the project’s main software provider.
Autodesk has allowed the port’s lab to access to its Advanced Manufacturing Facility sited at Birmingham, UK to further explore design and manufacturing concepts.
Vincent Wegener, Managing Director of the RAMLAB, said: “With the work being done at RAMLAB, the group hopes to accelerate the cross-industry adoption of hybrid manufacturing for making large-scale parts on-demand.”
“Our aim is to make the Port of Rotterdam not just an important gateway for Europe, but also a leader in the development of new manufacturing methods.”
“Autodesk is a key partner for us due to its expertise in how to design and manufacture using both the latest additive manufacturing techniques and more traditional CNC and machining methods.”
Steve Hobbs, VP of CAM and Hybrid Manufacturing at Autodesk, said: “Creating an ‘on-demand’ hybrid manufacturing capability for replacement parts will have a major impact on reducing wasted time and cost currently incurred across the maritime industry when ship parts are damaged. “
Kelvin Hamilton, technical liaison on the project at the Birmingham AMF, said: “We’re bringing additive manufacturing to a truly industrial scale. So much 3D printing to date has been limited to smaller components.
“But the technology – both software and hardware – is now ready for bigger things, and we’re seizing that opportunity to show the world what’s possible.”