At 3Dock we are strong believers in the capabilities of 3D printing ship parts, but we are pragmatic about the limits of this technology.
When we first visit our customers in the maritime industry, we find that there are many companies that are ready to embrace the technology, although we sometimes identify a number of misconceptions about 3D printing, some that we could mention:
“3D printing is a lot of fun for printing plastic models and little else…”
There is no doubt that 3D printing is the best technology for rapid prototyping, but the technologies and materials that exist today make it perfectly possible to 3d print ship spare parts, either plastic or metal, even in large format. In these cases, however, the design and build preparation are key to the functionality and performance of the part. The selection of the material and printing technology are also fundamental, but we will cover them in the following articles.
“3D printing is the future. One day we will print entire ships…”
Well, at 3Dock we are strong believers in the capabilities of 3D printing ship parts, but we are pragmatic about the limits of this technology. Its potential occupies a limited opportunity niche, where advice from a maritime additive manufacturing service bureau can determine where the implementation barrier lies, far beyond what the industry is used to. In fact, at 3Dock we are working on two projects at the limit of the 3D printing capacity of large steel and aluminium marine parts, with dynamic loads and topologically optimized structures. In these cases, having a specialized partner is key to the viability of the application, both in terms of costs and qualities, as well as the success of the project. Once again, the specialized design of 3D printed marine parts is a fundamental part of the execution.
The operating conditions of 3D printed parts on board of ships are of very high demand.
But let’s get to the subject of the article. What is DfAM?
DfAM stands for Design for Additive Manufacturing, and is the process of designing a part or product specifically for 3D printing. This means taking into account the unique capabilities and limitations of 3D printing, such as the layer-by-layer building process, material properties, support structures, or build axis. By designing with these factors in mind, you can create parts that are more efficient, cheaper, lighter, stiffer, and better suited for their intended use.
When it comes to maritime applications, applying a specialised DfAM can be particularly important for creating parts that are resistant to the harsh marine environment. The operating conditions of 3D printed parts on board of ships are of very high demand. For example, 3D printing can be used to create parts that are corrosion-resistant, UV-resistant, waterproof up to a given IPX value, watertight under pressure, etc. It is key to know the characteristics of the selected material and build technologies, including a specialised testing and qualification experience base, to add certain parameters to de design, as wall thicknesses, radius, force relative direction, and so on. Tolerances also play a key role here, especially in print-in-place assemblies, also called part consolidation, having also the potential of reducing or eliminating the need for post-processing.
Many things are possible, depending on how far you need to go and how critical is the success rate of the print process.
As for the built preparation, it refers to how the part is oriented in the printer, as well as the configuration of the printing process based on a series of qualitative and quantitative parameters. For example, we may be interested in orienting the part in a certain way to reduce the loads that are oriented in the interlaminar direction or, in other words, to improve the mechanical performance of the part. Or we may be interested in altering the temperature field during printing to limit the generation of internal stresses, that is, to limit the deformation of the part. In these cases, both universal and proprietary software are used, as well as simulation software, especially in metal printing, as well as artificial intelligence software that acts live, optimizing parameters during printing. Many things are possible, depending on how far you need to go and how critical is the success rate of the print process.
3D printing is a slow process with a relatively high economic cost, especially when it comes to 3D printed large-format marine spare parts. This implies that, in some cases, there is no margin for error. Parts must print right the first time. For this, once again, it is essential to have an specialized industrial partner on your side.
If you are looking for a specialized 3D printing service for the maritime sector, try with us. As a 3D printing service bureau in the maritime industry, we are here to be your specialized industry partner, helping you create custom parts, spare parts and products that meet your unique needs.
Contact us today to receive a first evaluation.