Is 3D printing just a passing fad, or does the technology actually allow you to print ship parts that can meet the rigorous demands of modern shipping?
This is one of the questions to be answered in the ‘3D Printing of Maritime Spare Parts’ project, which a consortium of 26 port-related companies is undertaking this summer. At the initiative of the economic development organization for the province of South Holland, and monitored closely by the Rotterdam Port Authority, ship parts such as screws, sealing rings and fluid conductors are 3D printed and tested. The results are to follow at the end of September.
From a list of around 30 possible parts, four were chosen. This selection process was a learning experience in itself: What parts are suitable for 3D printing? What are the benefits of 3D printing, and is it profitable to do so?
Broekman Logistics, which specializes in forwarding and shipping, warehousing and distribution and breakbulk terminals, is the only logistics services provider to participate in the 3D-print consortium.
Said Broekman CEO Raymond Riemen: “We recognize the value of 3D printing for a number of our customers for whom we store and transport cargo. In addition to the physical warehouses we operate, our membership in the consortium may be the first step in creating a digital warehouse for these customers. We will then also be able to use these warehouses as a basis for supplying products, at the right time and in the right location.”
The project will not only result in new printed parts: the consortium will also be testing the parts. Additionally, the partners in the project are creating a database indicating what parts are printed now, in the immediate future, and beyond. This database will guide shipping companies in selecting materials and equipment, production methods and processing aspects, as well as providing participants with the opportunity to take practical advantage of this new technology.
The actual 3D printing of the parts was scheduled for July and August, with the parts set to be tested in September, followed by the publication of the report. A progress update on the report will be presented during the World Port Days in Rotterdam in early September, with the presentation of the findings then scheduled for October 2015.