Marking a major step forward in the application of 3D printing techniques in the maritime sector, Damen Shipyards Group has entered a cooperative consortium with RAMLAB, Promarin, Autodesk and Bureau Veritas. The goal of this group of forward-looking companies is to develop the world’s first class approved 3D printed ship’s propeller, to be called the WAAMpeller.
Damen’s involvement in the project began just over a year ago as a result of one of its in-house student research programmes. “Three students from Delft Technical University were investigating the potential of 3D printing for us. They brought us into contact with the other members of the consortium,” explains Kees Custers, Project Engineer in Damen’s Research & Development department. “What is quite unique about this group of five companies is that, while we have joint interests, we also have individual aims. This leads to a very productive and cooperative atmosphere in what is a very exciting project.”
The propeller will be based on a Promarin design that is typically found on a Damen Stan Tug 1606. This 1,300mm diameter propeller weighs approximately 180kg. Using Autodesk software in the construction process, Port of Rotterdam’s RAMLAB will fabricate the WAAMpeller from a bronze alloy using the Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) process.
Bureau Veritas will be involved in the certification of the completed product; in what will be the first time that a metal 3D printed maritime component will be approved by Class.
Once the propeller has been printed, Damen’s role will continue with full-scale trials. “We will be performing a comprehensive programme that will include bollard pull and crash test scenarios. Our ambition is to demonstrate that the research phase for 3D printing in the maritime sector is over, and that it can now be effectively applied in operations.”
The first propeller is expected to be printed by summer 2017, with subsequent testing occurring in the autumn.
Importance of R&D
Damen invests considerable resources into its various Research & Development programmes. “Our aim is to build more effective, more cost-efficient and more environmentally friendly vessels,” comments Damen’s Principle Research Engineer Don Hoogendoorn.
“The WAAMpeller project contributes to this goal because it not only marks an important advance in 3D printing, but it also has the potential to yield significant results in optimising future vessel designs. 3D printing technology brings with it an excellent opportunity to improve ship structures in terms of both performance and fuel consumption.”