Within three years the first ships with 3D printed propellers will leave the port of Rotterdam
Last week, Port CEO Allard Castelein officially opened RAMLAB (Rotterdam Additive Manufacturing LAB). This is the first fieldlab with metal printers that focusses mainly on metal printing in the shipping industry. RAMLAB will use metal 3D printers for knowledge development, 3D modeling and certifications.
The purpose of RAMLAB is to activate 3D printing in commercial activities. They will be working together with industry partners towards a future where the WAAM (Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing) technology can be commercially deployable. “3D printing is promising but there are few companies that actually have the resources and knowledge in house to get them started with this technology.” Says Allard Castelein.
Right now there are two WAAM-systems in the RAMLAB. One setup of four by three meters has a manipulator that is for instance able to 3D print ship propellers. The other robot is able to ride over a rails of 6 meters long to e.g. weld lifting hooks. This system allows for metal prints larger than 1m3 in size.
3D Metal Printer
The printing will be done by a robot arm. This is a robot arm that puts layer on layer much similar to a welding process. “The goal is to print a propeller of 1 by 1.5 meter (39.4 inch by 59 inch), which is the biggest I have ever 3D printed” says Wei Ya, the robot operator. Wei Ya is one of the few specialists worldwide who can actually operate the machine.
RAMLAB already has an impressive list of partners (Valk Welding, Autodesk, IBM, Air Liquide, Lincoln Electric, TU Twente, M2I, Lemtech and Lloyds Register) and members (Huisman Equipment, Heerema Fabrication, Royal IHC, Royal Navy, Royal Roos, Promarin, Bolier, MX3D and Fokker).
Especially in the shipping industry, where spare parts are always a problem (never the right stock, new casting costs months..) is 3D metal printing a solution. With 3D metal printing, a spare part can be delivered within days. It will take some time before the RAMLAB can take on orders, right now is the development and research phase. But in 2018 the “factory” is expected to make reliable large scale metal printed objects for the shipping industry.