Jan 19, 2018 | By David

Shipbuilding is a manufacturing sector that isn’t quite as well known as others like aerospace or automotive for its adoption of 3D printing techniques, but the completion of the world’s first 3D printed ship propeller in the Netherlands last year shows the direction that the industry could soon be heading. The latest vote of confidence comes from a major shipbuilding company in Spain, which has fully implemented the technology in one of its shipyards. The state-owned Navantia is hoping to create a cutting-edge ‘Shipyard 4.0’ at a manufacturing base in Puerto Real, located in the Andalusia region of southern Spain.

Navantia, which has over 5,500 employees worldwide, is primarily engaged in the design, construction and integration of naval warships. It is also has contracts for repairs and modernizations for merchant ships and the Spanish government’s existing military vessels. The company has its headquarters in the Spanish capital of Madrid, and it was created in 2005 as a result of the segregation of the military assets of another, older public shipbuilding company, Grupo IZAR. As well as the Spanish navy, Navantia is involved with manufacturing for the army and air force, and has built ships for the navies of Norway, Australia, Chile, Spain, India, Thailand, Venezuela.

Implementing 3D printing technology is an initiative that has been organized in partnership with the local University of Cadiz, starting around two years ago. The institution’s materials and nano-technology innovation research group, INNANOMAT, has been providing the technical resources and support required for Navantia to make this transition into a new industrial manufacturing phase.

The first R&D project with additive manufacturing saw its completion towards the end of last year. The shipyard engineers installed a new 3D printed toilet in one of the ships, known as 3DCabin. This innovative toilet had a modular design, which enabled more efficient production and assembly. Another project around the same time led to the 3D printing of two ventilation grilles, which were subsequently installed aboard a pre-existing ship.

Alongside 3D printing, other ‘Industry 4.0’ technologies are going to be implemented in the Puerto Real shipyard, to fulfil the promise of the Shipyard 4.0 concept. The Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and augmented reality are all part of Navantia’s long-term plan.

According to shipyard director Pablo Lopez, "Shipyard 4.0 has clear objectives of reducing costs, deadlines and increasing quality in our products and processes, to achieve the competitive sustainability of the company...The projects and initiatives in progress allow us to visualize the potential that this line of work has for itself and in the whole of Navantia's commitment to the Shipyard 4.0 model," Lopez said, adding that "it can be foreseen that this technology (is here) to stay and (will be) part of our productive fabric in the near future."

Both Navantia and the broader Spanish manufacturing world stand to benefit greatly from this pioneering adoption of additive manufacturing and other cutting-edge technologies, which will also involve an increase in collaborative work with auxiliary industries. The latest R&D project to be launched at the shipyard is known as Adibuque. This is intended to consolidate the use of 3D printing technology across all its vessels, pointing the way forward with a clear strategy of improvement.



Posted in 3D Printer Company



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