Missing a spare part is always a pain, and we’ve all seen that in the best of times supply chains can fail and we would have to wait for delivery of the missing part. Now imagine how much worse that is when you are waiting for this spare part on board a ship in a (potentially remote) port. The cost of waiting is exorbitant, especially if it’s a critical part! Waiting in port for a part also increases port time which ports and ships go to extraordinary lengths to shorten in order to keep costs down. It’s no wonder there is a lot of interest in Additive Manufacturing (AM) in the maritime industry and the specifics are no less interesting.
Industry organizations have started noticing the potential of AM for maritime several years ago. By 2017 ABS (American Bureau of Shipping) was able to publish guidelines on the use of AM in Maritime and Offshore with several ongoing examples. The guidelines include the process and documentation needed for qualifying an AM system, checking the feasibility of producing a part with it and then verifying it and checking its risks (including security risks). Singapore is a leader in the Maritime industry with one of the top 3 busiest ports in the world and a highly developed manufacturing industry (contributing about 20-25% of the country’s GDP). It is no surprise then that the government of Singapore funded a market feasibility study on using AM for maritime spare parts. The study was led by DNV-GL and the Ivaldi Group. The study identified the top 100 spare parts ships pick up at the Singapore port and classified them as 3D printable or not. Over 2/3 of the top 100 were classified as 3D printable parts. Furthermore, the study checked if class certification was required for these 3D printable parts – it turns out the more than half do not need class certification making the process towards producing them in AM simpler and faster. Espen Sivertsen, the CEO of Ivaldi Group adds: “The feasibility study identified a number of part candidates desirable for digitization and production using AM. To date, Ivaldi has digitized several thousand parts for the maritime and offshore industries including some parts identified here. Before safety critical parts can be commercialized however, they must undergo rigorous certification. In collaboration with DNV-GL, Wilhelmsen and other partners, Ivaldi is now working on this.”
Following these earlier efforts, several companies have picked up the glove and created digital supply chain solutions (using AM) tailored specifically for the maritime industry. Wilhelmsen together with Ivaldi Group, which is backed by Wilhelmsen, gained early traction with companies owning fleets such as Carnival Maritime (the Marine Service Unit servicing Carnival Cruise ships among others) and Berge Bulk (operating a fleet of bulk commodities carrying vessels). These ships need spare parts from hardware vendors and carrying a physical inventory on board is very costly for them in a ship where every square centimeter is accounted for. Having the parts readily available with quick delivery (see below) means less need for physical inventory. The idea was presumably to quantify and consolidate the demand which would then entice the vendors (of the vessels or the equipment on them) to provide through this partnership digital inventory that can be 3D printed on demand. In fact, 2 month after the Wilhelmsen/Ivaldi partnership was announced (and before the COVID-19 virus spread beyond China), Wilhelmsen delivered their first additively manufactured parts to Berge Bulk (including scupper plugs – above and close up below).
This year, Wilhelmsen also announced a partnership with Thyssenkrupp who has vast shipbuilding experience to provide 3D printed spare parts for its ships. This partnership come following the certification of Thyssenkrupp’s Additive Manufacturing center for Maritime metal 3D printed parts in mid 2019. This approval was provided by DNV-GL and is the first of its kind. Thyssenkrupp is also planning series production of additively manufactured submarine parts (see one below). Offering its customers on demand parts that are additively manufactured can give Thyssenkrupp an edge over other shipbuilders. However, others are not idling on the sidelines. Several other companies have maritime initiatives, many of them in Singapore. Keppel O&M has received certification from Lloyd’s Register to additively manufacture offshort grade steel parts. In this context, Hussain Quraishi from Lloyd’s Register Singapore office said: “Additive manufacturing is a highly innovative technique that more and more companies are turning to in their drive to offer high-quality components for use in projects across a wide range of industries.” Finnish marine solutions provider Wärtsilä has opted for CE certification for its 3D printed tool offering (last picture). Meanwhile, Australian shipbuilder Austal has chosen fellow Aussie AML3D‘s metal 3D printers for additively manufacturing large scale maritime components.
Playing Well with Others or Turnkey
It is no accident that almost all the initiatives mentioned above involve collaborations, partnerships, and consortia. In the fragmented AM ecosystem, playing well with others and securely sharing expertise is a must. Wilhelmsen seems to be particularly active in this respect and is therefore perhaps ahead in piecing together an end to end solution. From recognizing the needs, through adapting parts, to digital supply chains and finally delivery to the customer. For that last part is (delivery), Wilhelmsen partnered with drone company F-drones to deliver 3D printed parts to ships. With AM companies are also participating in the ultimate in playing well with others: taking care of the environment.
An alternative to collaboration is an offering that does it for us – a turnkey solution. One such turnkey solution is a marketplace such as shipparts.com which is now considering 3D printed parts as well. The company claims that moving to digital supply chains with additive manufacturing could cut down the wait for parts by 80% – this can directly affect the off-hire cost to the ship. Others are also offering similar marketplace solutions or a collaborative solution from several players. Either way, solutions use digital (and secured!) supply chains and on demand AM. In the case of collaboration, secured IP sharing is starting to come to the fore as well (small plug: LEO Lane can help with securing digital inventory/supply chain and with IP protection as well as ensuring the consistency of parts).
The maritime industry is well poised to be a sophisticated user of AM enjoying many benefits. Quite a few companies have ongoing initiatives and undoubtedly there will be more to come. It will be exciting to see how these trends evolve in the coming months and years. For more insights and information follow us on LinkedIn or subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates. (picture up top credit to @drone_your_sorrows)