Marking a first, Dutch shipbuilding group Damen unveiled the world’s first 3D printed ship’s propeller, the WAAMpeller, after a rigorous testing process which was verified by Bureau Veritas.
This project was under development for seven months and was a result of a collaboration between RAMLAB, Promarin, Autodesk, Bureau Veritas and Damen.
The design of the triple-blade propeller was provided by Promarin. The Port of Rotterdam’s RAMLAB (Rotterdam Additive Manufacturing LAB) carried out fabrication using Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) techniques, supported by Autodesk’s expertise in software, robotics and additive manufacturing.
Damen provided Research and Development resources in addition to one of its Stan Tug 1606 vessels for operational testing purposes. Bureau Veritas’ role was to verify the entire development, production and testing process.
In August this year, the consortium reached their first milestone with the completion of the first WAAMpeller which was installed on a Damen Stan Tug 1606. The protype was followed up by a second version with an aim of class certification.
The propeller was 3D printed with 298 layers of Nickel Aluminium Bronze alloy by the 3D printing machine at RAMLAB which used 2.6 kilometres of wire. The production of this propeller happened in one automated process over a few days. It was then 3D scanned and finished by hand.
Operational testing took place on Nov 20 with representatives from all partners in the project present. The testing included bollard pull and crash stop testing, in addition to speed trials.
“Of course, we were all a bit nervous beforehand – after all, innovation always comes with a certain amount of unknowns – but the testing was a success,” said Kees Custers, Damen Project Engineer R&D. He further spoke on how the WAAMpeller displayed the same behaviour as a conventional casted propeller in all of the tests, which included the same level of performance in the crash stop scenario, which – going from full throttle ahead to full throttle reverse – is the heaviest loading that a propeller can experience.
With 3D printing coming into use for many applications in our day-to-day lives, it was only a matter of time before this technology made a foray into the maritime sector. The potential of 3D printing for the production of vessel components is immense and one can only wait and watch as more and more companies adopt this technology now that classification societies have also started to recognise and approve them.