Back in April the United States Navy revealed that they had installed a 3D printer aboard one of their ships, the USS Essex. This news was somewhat expected as 3D printing is a technology which the Navy, as well as other branches of the U.S. military has shown interest in, in the past. Although, at the time, the Navy was only testing the machine out, and providing a training mechanism for sailors while the ship was at port, such technology is sure to eventually be used on board ships during actual military operations.
The Navy is not the only group using 3D printers on board ships. In fact, one of the world’s largest container shipping companies, Maersk, headquartered in Copenhagen Denmark, is using 3D printers as a way to fabricate spare parts on container ships.
The company which currently has a fleet of over 500 container ships, has been transporting goods around the globe for the last 110 years. This month they revealed that they had 3D printers installed on board their ships. The printers currently are capable of printing with ABS thermoplastics, however, the company is investigating the possible future utilization of powder based metal laser sintering machines.
When a part breaks on a container ship in the middle of the Ocean, it’s certainly not an easy or cheap task to provide a replacement part to that vessel, in a speedy manner. Time equals money when you are shipping millions of products across an ocean, thus 3D printing seemed to be the perfect solution.
“The idea is that we send the blueprint to the crew on board the tanker vessel, they will push ‘print’ and in a matter of hours get the part,” explained Märtha Josefine Rehnberg, a category manager at Maersk Procurement.
Engineers can be sitting at a desk in Copenhagen, get a call from a ship halfway around the world, send a simple .STL file to a computer on board that ship, and within a few hours a replacement part can be printed out and installed on the vessel.
Certainly the fact that thermoplastics are the only material able to be printed at this time on Maersk’s vessels, limits the type of parts able to be fabricated, however, within a few years time we may begin seeing more sophisticated laser, metal sintering printers making their way on board ships from all of the major container shipping companies out there. As prices drop and technology advances, it will be hard to ignore the utility that such machines possess. Let us know what you think about this use of 3D printing on board shipping vessels, in the Maersk 3D printing forum thread on 3DPB.com. Maersk has created the following video to explain how all this works, which you can watch below.
You May Also Like
3DChain: An AI-Driven 3D Printing Service Platform
Co-Founder of 3DChain, Babak Zareiyan, gives an outlook and explanation of the 3DChain concept, a unique manufacturing service platform for 3D printing. You developed 3DChain, a design and additive manufacturing...
STACKER Successfully Funds Industrial Office F1 3D Printer on Kickstarter
3D printer Kickstarter campaigns don’t all get it right, but when it comes to crowdfunding, industrial-grade 3D printer provider STACKER seems to know what it’s doing. The Minnesota-based company just...
Peopoly Releases Bigger, Faster Phenom XXL DLP 3D Printer
Peopoly has been receiving positive feedback as a 3D printer developer and manufacturer since the launch of its Moai SLA 3D printer in 2017. Continuing on with their Phenom series,...
How to Manage the Complexity of a 3D Printing Service
At first glance, most 3D printing projects look easy. To most of you, 3D printing is not complicated at all, but to customers, it can be quite complex. I can...
View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.