Today saw the unveiling of the world’s first class-approved 3D-printed propeller, the ‘WAAMpeller’, following months of hard work and careful testing. The WAAMpeller (Wire Arc Additively Manufactured) project, based out of the Port of Rotterdam’s RAMLAB facility, could radically transform the future of ‘on-demand’ manufacturing within the maritime industry and save the industry millions in warehousing, logistics and downtime costs.
Left: The unveiling of WAAMpeller at Damen. Courtesy of Damen Shipyards Group. Right: The mounting of WAAMpeller at Damen. Courtesy of Damen Shipyards Group.
When a key part on a ship is damaged it needs replacing or repairing. If replacement parts are not in stock, it can take weeks or even months to have this delivered from a warehouse on the other side of the world, creating a costly challenge for the maritime industry as ships sit idle in ports. But what the WAAMpeller project has shown is that there is another way – hybrid manufacturing –harnessing the latest additive manufacturing techniques and technologies, combined with traditional subtractive manufacturing to produce replacement parts in days instead of weeks and months.
Since the initial prototype was developed earlier this year, the WAAMpeller has been updated both in production method and throughput time over the last few months. The final part has been subjected to a series of grueling tests in the last couple of weeks having been fitted to one of Damen’s tugboat vessels (Stan Tug 1606). These tests included speed trials, bollard pull and crash stop testing, which involved going from full throttle ahead to full throttle reverse –the heaviest loading that a propeller can experience during normal operation. Overseen by certification body Bureau Veritas, it passed these tests with flying colours. The now unveiled ‘final’ version is officially class-approved by Bureau Veritas.
WAAMpeller trials on Damen STu 1606. Courtesy of Damen Shipyards Group.
The project involved a few partners of the RAMLAB consortium, from across the maritime industry including Damen Shipyards, one of the world’s leading shipbuilding companies, the Port of Rotterdam, propeller experts Promarin and others with Autodesk providing software and consulting expertise (see previous blog post for more detail).
The WAAMpeller project team. Courtesy of Damen Shipyards Group.
“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,” said Kelvin Hamilton, sr. technical consultant, Autodesk.
The maritime industry has taken a look into the future – what’s the next industry ready for disruption through additive manufacturing?