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The Port of Rotterdam, located in the Netherlands, is the largest port in Europe. It handles more than 460 million tons of cargo every year, and in November it became home to RAMLAB, an additive manufacturing lab constructed specifically for the maritime industry. RAMLAB was built so that replacement parts for ships could be quickly and easily 3D printed onsite, rather than having to wait weeks or even months for delivery of a new part, disrupting shipping schedules. It was also created as a means of accelerating the additive manufacturing industry overall.

RAMLAB includes a pair of 6-axis robotic arms capable of additively manufacturing large parts, and recently the facility, along with partner Autodesk, unveiled the first component to be produced at RAMLAB: a ship’s propeller. The part was actually made using a hybrid manufacturing approach, combining wire and arc additive manufacturing, using the industrial robotic arms, with subtractive machining and grinding technology.

[Image: Freek van Arkel via Autodesk]

It’s the latest example of a recent trend toward hybrid manufacturing, rather than strictly additive. Autodesk, as a software partner, played a large part in the development of RAMLAB’s hybrid approach, which involves 3D printing large metal ship components and then machining them down to their final size with CNC milling and grinding methods.

“The Port of Rotterdam’s RAMLAB initiative is a great example of how whole industries are being disrupted by industrial additive manufacturing,” said Steve Hobbs, VP of CAM and Hybrid Manufacturing at Autodesk. “Creating an ‘on-demand’ hybrid manufacturing capability for replacement parts will have a major impact on reducing wasted time and cost currently incurred across the maritime industry when ship parts are damaged. We’re excited to be working alongside some of the key players in the marine industry to bring to reality this very tangible example of the future of making things.”

The propeller is currently on display at Autodesk’s booth at Hannover Messe, which is taking place from April 24 to 28. The next step will be to create a to-scale version of the part, which will be fitted to a ship this summer.

“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,” said Vincent Wegener, Managing Director of the RAMLAB. “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. Autodesk is a key partner for us due to its expertise in how to design and manufacture using both the latest additive manufacturing techniques and more traditional CNC and machining methods.”

In addition to working with RAMLAB onsite at the port, Autodesk has also supported the facility by offering access to their Advanced Manufacturing Facility (AMF) in Birmingham so that new design and manufacturing concepts could be tried out. Together, Autodesk and RAMLAB have explored the designs that 3D printing can make possible, prepared the designs to be manufactured, and 3D printed them with considerations for the distortion and stress on the macroscale, as well as geometric fidelity and thermal management. Once the components are printed, they’re post-processed and machined into their final forms.

“We’re bringing additive manufacturing to a truly industrial scale,” said Kelvin Hamilton, technical liaison at the Birmingham facility. “So much 3D printing to date has been limited to smaller components. But the technology – both software and hardware – is now ready for bigger things, and we’re seizing that opportunity to show the world what’s possible.”

Discuss in the RAMLAB forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Autodesk]

 

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