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Port of Rotterdam Charting a Course to Digitization with 3D Printing, IBM’s IoT Technologies, Digital Twin

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Ports are an important part of the local and global economy, as over 85% of all globally traded goods have traveled on a ship at least once. The largest port in all of Europe, the Port of Rotterdam, is located in the Netherlands, and handles over 461 million metric tons of cargo each year. The 42 km port has been relying on traditional radio and radar communication to make important operations decisions, but has just announced a multi-year digitization initiative – the port will collaborate with IBM to use its cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to transform operations and benefit the port. This initiative will also prepare the port to host connected ships.

“Here in Rotterdam, we are taking action to become the smartest port in the world. Speed and efficiency is essential to our business, and requires us to use all of the data available to us,” explained Paul Smits, CFO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority. “Thanks to real-time information about infrastructure, water, air, etc., we can enormously improve the service we provide to everyone who uses the port, and prepare to embrace the connected, autonomous shipping of the future.”

The Port of Rotterdam began focusing on more modern technologies, like 3D printing, back in 2016, when it opened RAMLAB (Rotterdam Additive Manufacturing LAB) in an effort to accelerate and encourage the use of 3D printing.

30 partners make up the R&D facility, which allows for wide-scale availability of certified metal shipping parts, and it’s the first 3D printing field lab specifically developed for shipping companies and seaports.

In an IBM blog post, Vincent Campfens, Business Consultant, Internet of Things, Smart Infrastructure, for the Port of Rotterdam, said, “We believe that quality industrial spare parts should always be available wherever they’re needed, whenever they’re needed, and at a competitive price.”

RAMLAB utilizes IBM’s cognitive IoT technology in the 3D printing process, which 3D prints on-demand, high-quality metal ship components, like propellers, using a robotic welding arm, at a much faster rate. While conventional manufacturing processes can make a ship’s component in six to eight weeks, RAMLAB’s 3D printing method could potentially make the same component in only 200 hours.

The digitalization initiative will start by developing a centralized dashboard application that will eventually collect and process real-time water and weather sensor data, as well as communications data, which will be analyzed through IBM’s IoT platform to allow for safer and more efficient traffic management at the port; IoT sensors are currently being installed along the port’s mooring posts, roads, and quay walls.

Augmented Intelligence and smart weather data will also be used to measure things like the availability of berths and salinity of the water, and by collecting all of this data, the Port of Rotterdam can enjoy a “significant positive economic impact on shipping costs,” as favorable weather and water conditions ensure that cargo will arrive safely, and also allow for lower fuel consumption rates and cost-effective per-ship payloads.

The Port of Rotterdam wants to host autonomous ships by 2025, and another enhancement coming to the port area that will help with this goal is a digital twin of the port. This concept uses different data sources to create an exact digital replica of the port’s operations, and will accurately mirror all of its resources, such as tracking weather, ship movements, and water depth data, so the port will be able to test out scenarios for connected shipping.

“We process more than 140,000 ships every year and coordinating the berthing of each vessel is a complex task that involves multiple parties and must be executed safely and securely. It can take many hours,” Campfens said. “With a new digital dashboard, we will be able to view the operations of all parties at the same time and increase volume and efficiency of shipped goods that pass through the port. In fact, shipping companies and the port stand to save up to one hour in berthing time, which can amount to about $80,000 US dollars in savings for ship operators and enables the port to dock more ships each day.”

The port will also be using another component of IBM’s IoT Connecting Services by introducing several Digital Dolphins to the site to offer insights into the condition of a berthing terminal, as well as water and weather conditions. The sensor-equipped buoys and smart quay walls support ship-to-ship cargo transfer, and will generate time-stamped data about their environment and status, so port operators can determine the best time and place for a ship to dock.

“Machine learning will be applied to learn from data patterns so that port operators will be able rely on 100% accurate, real-time data about the port’s infrastructure,” Campfens explained. “This data will be used at the port and shared with those using it.”

IBM partners Cisco and Axians are also helping in the Port of Rotterdam’s digitization efforts.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

[Source/Images: Port of Rotterdam]

 

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