05 December 2017

3D Printing Produces a Unique Propeller Under Watchful Eye of Vessel Certification Group  

Made to Order Part Crafted From 298 Layers of Metal Alloy

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Shipping News Feature NETHERLANDS – WORLDWIDE – Following a rigorous testing process, verified by Bureau Veritas, Damen Shipyard Group has unveiled what it says is the world's first class approved 3D printed ship's propeller, at its headquarters in the Netherlands. Known as the WAAMpeller, the project is the result of a close collaboration between RAMLAB, Promarin, Autodesk, Bureau Veritas and Damen, which began pooling together their collective resources and knowledge to develop the 3D printed ship's propeller seven months ago.

Propeller specialists Promarin provided the design of the triple-blade propeller, with the Port of Rotterdam’s RAMLAB (Rotterdam Additive Manufacturing LAB) carrying out fabrication using Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) techniques, supported by Autodesk’s knowledge of 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.

The consortium reached its first milestone in August with the completion of the first WAAMpeller prototype. With valuable experience gained, production of the second version, with the aim of achieving class certification, started immediately. Vincent Wegener, Managing Director RAMLAB, commented:

“Production of the second WAAMpeller was greatly improved because we had learned a lot from producing the prototype. This mainly concerned the hardware/software interaction because, when laying down 298 layers of Nickel Aluminium Bronze alloy, it is important to have a tight control on all process parameters.”

With the second WAAMpeller complete, the project then progressed to the testing stage, the first phase of which saw the WAAMpeller installed on a Damen Stan Tug 1606. Martin de Bruijn, Managing Director Workboats at Damen, said:

“This particular vessel is of extra interest in that it is equipped with a Tier III compliant engine, making it future proof for the ever stricter environmental rules and regulations in harbours around the world.”

Damen’s testing engineers performed operational testing of the WAAMpeller on November 20, with representatives from all of the consortium partners present. Furthermore, the day’s procedures were overseen by Bureau Veritas surveyors throughout. The testing programme included bollard pull and crash stop testing in addition to speed trials. Kees Custers, Damen Project Engineer R&D, explained:

“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. We are pleased to report that the WAAMpeller displayed the same behaviour as a conventional casted propeller in all of the tests. This includes 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.

“From day one, this project has been characterised by a good working atmosphere and team dynamics, so there were quite a few high-fives on board when we had successfully completed the tests!”

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