Apr 26, 2017 | By Tess

The Port of Rotterdam’s Additive Manufacturing Fieldlab (RAMLAB) has successfully produced its first 3D printed pilot component—a ship’s propeller—in partnership with Autodesk. The RAMLAB was established just over a year ago and has been pioneering the use of 3D printing in the maritime industry. The recently unveiled 3D printed propeller was produced at the Port of Rotterdam using a hybrid manufacturing process that combines wire and arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) with subtractive machining and grinding processes.

The Port of Rotterdam, located in the Netherlands’ second most populous city, is currently the largest port in Europe, making it a crucial junction for international cargo flows and trade. The port, which handles more than 460 million tons of cargo a year, can also now boast of being the “world’s smartest port,” largely thanks to its recently established Additive Manufacturing Fieldlab.

The RAMLAB was founded in an effort to streamline and increase the efficiency of the large port through the introduction and adoption of advanced additive manufacturing techniques. Think about it: if a ship arrives at the port with any damage or in need of a replacement part, having that part ready in the fastest amount of time is crucial to keeping trade and shipments running smoothly.

The way the system currently works, it can take weeks or even months to come through with large industrial ship components, in part because it would be incredibly expensive to store inventories of ship parts in warehouses. Additionally, having even a slight delay caused by the need for a replacement part can cost companies millions of dollars.

With the RAMLAB, the Port of Rotterdam is determined to overcome this hurdle in a tech-oriented and innovative way. The fieldlab, equipped with two six-axis metal 3D printing robotic arms, is dedicated to the on-site manufacturing of large-scale metal components that could help get vessels up and running in less time than ever.

The RAMLAB recently unveiled its 3D printed pilot part: a ship’s propeller. The part was created in partnership with 3D software company Autodesk, which helped to shape the hybrid manufacturing technique used by the RAMLAB to create the part. The technique, which combines additive and subtractive processes, has enabled the RAMLAB to manufacture large-scale parts out of metal and finish them in a cheap and time-efficient manner.

Steve Hobbs, VP of CAM and Hybrid Manufacturing at Autodesk, said: “The Port of Rotterdam’s RAMLAB initiative is a great example of how whole industries are being disrupted by industrial additive manufacturing. 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.”

The 3D printed ship propeller, which was made using wire and arc additive manufacturing and subtractive finishing methods such as CNC milling and grinding, will soon be followed by a final, full-scale version which is expected to be fitted onto a ship as soon as summer 2017.

“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,” said Vincent Wegener, Managing Director of the RAMLAB. “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.”

A prototype of the 3D printed propeller is currently on display at Autodesk’s stand at Hannover Messe.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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