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RAMLAB & Partners Develop World’s First 3D Printed Ship Propeller

Picture of Hanna Watkin
by Hanna Watkin
Dec 4, 2017

The Port of Rotterdam’s Additive Manufacturing LAB unveiled a 3D printing project to print the first marine propeller – called the ‘WAAMpeller.’

Raise your hand if you like waiting a long time for repair parts! For the maritime industry anyway, thankfully, times are changing. A project based out of the Port of Rotterdam’s Additive Manufacturing LAB (RAMLAB) facility is speeding up manufacturing for ship parts.

In fact, the RAMLAB facility in the Netherlands recently revealed the world’s first, class-approved 3D printed propeller. They’re calling it the WAAMpeller – short for ‘Wire Arc Additively Manufactured Propeller.’

A reputable group including Damen Shipyards Group, Promarin, Autodesk and Bureau Veritas joined to tackle the project. The partners have spent months testing and developing the design.

Their hope is that 3D printing could help save the maritime industry millions in “warehousing, logistics and downtime costs.” Currently, if a replacement part isn’t in stock, it takes weeks or even months before it’s delivered.

In the meantime, the whole ship is left waiting at the port. However, the WAAMpeller project proves that by using 3D printing, creating replacement parts could take just a few days instead of weeks or months.

“Our aim is to construct more effective, cost-efficient and environmentally-friendly vessels. This project contributes to these goals,” says Damen’s Principle Research Engineer Don Hoogendoorn.

Streamlining Industries with 3D Printing

The first prototype of the WAAMpeller was created earlier this year. Since then, it has been refined, improved upon, and rigorously tested for quality assurance.

In fact, RAMLAB is the first field lab equipped with 3D metal printers that focuses on the port-related sector. They used Autodesk software to create the design. Then, RAMLAB relied on Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) for the printing process.

Over the past few weeks, the part was fitted to one of Damen’s tugboat vessels (Stan Tug 1606). It has since been tested for speed, bollard pull as well as crash stop testing.

The  Bureau Veritas certification body oversaw and monitored the tests. Amazingly, the 3D printed part passed every test, meaning the final version was class-approved.

The final propellor is 4 feet, 2 inches (1,300-mm) in diameter and weighs nearly 400 pounds (180kg). It is made from a custom nickel-aluminum-bronze alloy and based on a Promarin design used in the Damen Stan Tug 1606.

“One of the most exciting things about this project is that we have not just produced a ‘one-off demonstrator’. It’s relatively easy to do something once but, to produce a certified part and establish a process takes more time and consideration. Working with a great team of partners we’ve harnessed the best of additive and subtractive manufacturing to create a process that is repeatable. This repeatability provides the potential to radically transform the whole industry” explains Kelvin Hamilton, Senior technical consultant for Autodesk.

Source: Autodesk Blog

WAAMpeller

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