Maritime Industry

The maritime industry, which comprises shipping companies, ships manufacturing, and port authorities, has slowly begun to undergo a digital transformation. In 3dpbm‘s analysis, the maritime industrial sector is intended as encompassing all navigation-related applications, including marine industry products such as sailing boats and yachts, and above or underwater energy applications (both fossil and renewable).

Automation is gaining increasing interest across the maritime industry while IMO puts the issue of autonomous ships high on the agenda, stepping up efforts toward their adoption. Also, advanced software and simulation capabilities are emerging and maritime connectivity improved. Not until very recently, however, did the digital transformation in the maritime industry apply to manufacturing – and specifically to additive manufacturing processes.

There are multiple reasons why AM was slower to enter maritime industry manufacturing processes and they depend largely on the type of ships. For example, in the yachting industry, AM already proves ideal for a large number of parts – even small parts – due to the very small zie of batches required. However, operators in this industry are traditionally very slow to adapt to change. Recently, with some pressure from LFAM composites hardware system manufacturers such as Ingersoll, Thermwood and Caracol, operators in the yachting industry have begun to explore the opportunities for large format mold production using AM.

There are of course exceptions, especially in what we consider marine (rather than maritime) applications. This segment, which includes racing boats (especially in America’s Cup, where technological advancements and weight containment are major issues), as well as luxury yachts. This segment has already begun opening up to these technologies for the production of small part batches or custom components. In some mainly exploratory cases, composite (CFR or GFR) materials have enabled additive manufacturing of very large parts using materials that provide sufficient chemical and environmental resistance to be used in the tough marine environment. In one case, even an entire submarine hull was 3D printed in a joint project involving ORNL and the US Navy.

In the transportation industry, thus in seaport and large ships applications, the biggest limit was part size. As new DED, WAAM and blown powder processes have enabled faster additive production of much larger parts, a slew of new applications have emerged to enable direct and cost-effective production of marine parts such as propellers, submarine ballasts and several other parts.

Yet another key application of AM for the maritime industry is on-demand part replacements. In this case, AM has shown to be applicable both within onshore shipyards/ports and directly on-board large ships such as – but not limited toaircraft carriers that have to spend a long time at sea.

Finally, 3D printing, even with concrete-based materials, has proven useful for building underwater structures and even help rebuild coral barriers and more recently for on-location production of large wind turbine towers. These applications fit more within the realm of construction 3D printing, however, they have already shown enormous potential. Below you will find the latest updates on most relevant news and application cases for AM in the maritime industry.

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