First class-approved 3D printed ship propeller unveiled

The WAAMpeller being mounted at Damen's headquarters The WAAMpeller being mounted at Damen's headquarters

Damen Shipyard Group has displayed the world’s first class-approved 3D printed propeller at its headquarters after a collaborative project between RAMLAB, Promarin, Autodesk, Bureau Veritas and Damen.

The five companies started pooling their resources to develop the propeller seven months ago. Promarin provided the design of the triple-blade propeller. 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.

The consortium reached its first milestone in August with the completion of the first WAAMpeller prototype. “Production of the second WAAMpeller was greatly improved because we had learned a lot from producing the prototype,” said Vincent Wegener, managing director RAMLAB. “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.”

TESTING IN DORDRECHT

The project then progressed to the testing stage, the first phase of which saw the WAAMpeller installed on a Damen Stan Tug 1606. “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,” explained Martin de Bruijn, managing director workboats at Damen.

Damen’s testing engineers performed operational testing of the WAAMpeller on 20 November, with representatives from all consortium partners present. The day’s procedures were overseen by Bureau Veritas surveyors.

Martijn Nieuwenhuijs, chief executive, Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore Netherlands said: “Bureaus Veritas has witnessed every step of the making and testing of the WAAMpeller. Some challenges needed to be tackled along the way, but the final product is technically sound and ready for commercial application.”

HEAVY LOADS

The testing programme included bollard pull and crash stop testing in addition to speed trials. “We are pleased to report that the WAAMpeller displayed the same behaviour as a conventional casted propeller in all of the tests,“ said Kees Custers, Damen’s project engineer R&D. “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.”

Talking before the WAAMpeller unveiling on 30 November, Allard Castelein, CEO, Port of Rotterdam said: “The WAAMpeller project is special for many reasons. Not only has it produced the world’s first class approved 3D printed ship’s propeller, but this has been accomplished within a very impressive seven-month timeframe and only one year after the official opening of RAMLAB.

“This project has shown the shipbuilding industry the potential of 3D printing techniques for the production of vessel components. We continue our intensive research into this very exciting area.”

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