Port of Rotterdam’s RAMLAB drives 3D-printing of ship parts

The Port of Rotterdam’s Additive Manufacturing Fieldlab (RAMLAB) and its software partner Autodesk have successfully produced the first 3D-printed pilot component for the maritime industry, informs Autodesk. A ship’s propeller was made using a hybrid manufacturing process combining wire and arc additive manufacturing, with the help of industrial robotic arms, with subtractive machining and grinding techniques.

According to the developers, the new technology is expected to help the Port of Rotterdam meet its customers’ needs – for example, to provide a replacement part to a ship – in a faster and more efficient manner. Currently, if a vessel comes into a port needing a propeller, for example, the order and delivery process can take weeks or months, costing companies millions of dollars of idle time. It can also be quite costly for companies to keep large stocks of spare parts around the globe.

To tackle this challenge, in November 2016, the Port opened the innovative RAMLAB, an onsite facility equipped with a pair of 6-axis robotic arms capable of 3D-printing large metal industrial parts. Launched by the Port of Rotterdam only in February 2016, the RAMLAB initiative has the aim to carry out research and development projects to make 3D metal printing, also known as wire arc additive manufacturing, commercially viable. With its partners – hardware and software companies, academic and certification institutions, key end users – RAMLAB works towards a future in which components can be printed on demand.

Vincent Wegener, RAMLAB’s Managing Director, commented on the achievement: “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.”

He called Autodesk a key partner thanks to its “expertise in how to design and manufacture using both the latest additive manufacturing techniques and more traditional CNC and machining methods”.

The nearest plans of RAMLAB and Autodesk include producing a final, to scale, version of the component and install it on one of the partner’s ships already this summer.

Julia Louppova:
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