Meet the WAAMpeller, the World’s First Class-Approved Metal 3D Printed Maritime Component

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The propeller prototype was displayed last week at Autodesk’s booth at RAPID + TCT. [Photo: Sarah Goehrke]

Last month, we learned about a project taken on by Autodesk in partnership with RAMLAB, the Port of Rotterdam’s new additive manufacturing lab. The two created a 3D printed prototype of a ship’s propeller, and now the project has expanded to include several other partners including Promarin, Bureau Veritas and Damen Shipyards Group. The propeller will be developed into the world’s first class-approved 3D printed ship’s propeller, dubbed the WAAMpeller.

It will be the first time any metal 3D printed maritime component will be class approved, in fact, and the WAAMpeller will be certified by Bureau Veritas once it’s completed. The global corporation performs testing, verification and certification services for numerous industries, including maritime, aerospace, agriculture, oil and gas, and many others. The design of the propeller is based on a Promarin design usually found on a Damen Stan Tug 1606.

Damen Shipyards Group has actually been involved in the project for a little over a year, ever since learning of it through an in-house student research program.

“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,” said 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.”

(L to R) Kees Custers (Research Engineer Damen Shipyards Gorinchem), Vincent Wegener (Managing Director RAMLAB), Wei Ya (Postdoctoral Researcher RAMLAB), Constantinos Goulas (Postdoctoral Researcher RAMLAB), Max van der Zalm (Design Engineer Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding), Don Hoogendoorn (Principal Research Engineer Damen Shipyards Gorinchem), Kelvin Hamilton (Technical Consultant Autodesk) and Laurens van Ballegooy (Sales Manager Promarin)

The WAAMpeller is named not for the sound its blades make as they strike the water but for the process by which it will be manufactured. Wire and arc additive manufacturing, or WAAM, is a process of 3D printing with metal wire as feedstock and an electric arc as a heat source. It’s a faster, less expensive method of 3D printing, and it’s a specialty of RAMLAB, which has a system of robots and welding equipment capable of producing extremely large parts using the technology.

RAMLAB will use its WAAM technology along with Autodesk software to 3D print the propeller from a bronze alloy. Once complete, it will be 1,300 mm in diameter and will weigh about 180 kg. Damen Shipyards Group will then put the component through a series of full-scale trials.

“We will be performing a comprehensive programme that will include bollard pull and crash test scenarios,” the company stated. “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.”

Damen Shipyards Group, which operates 33 shipbuilding and repair yards and employs about 9,000 people across the globe, turned to advanced technology some time ago. In March, the company adopted Dassault Systémes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform to streamline their operations, and they’re dedicated to pursuing technology such as 3D printing for the betterment of both their products and the environment.

“Our aim is to build more effective, more cost-efficient and more environmentally friendly vessels,” said Damen’s Principal 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.”

The first propeller is expected to be 3D printed by this summer, with testing taking place in the fall. Discuss in the WAAMpeller forum at 3DPB.com.

 

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