3D printed parts trialled for six months on oil tanker

ConocoPhillips Polar Tankers, ABS, Sembcorp Marine and 3D Metalforge have undertaken a joint development project to evaluate the use of 3D printed parts on board ship during operations, with results validating that the items were found to be ‘in good working condition’ after six months.

The project began in February 2021 with the fabrication and lab-testing of functional additive manufactured parts, which were then installed on board the oil tanker Polar Endeavour.

Additive Manufacturing (AM) – more commonly known as 3D printing – is the fabrication of parts by adding material layer by layer, allowing products and components to be fabricated locally or potentially on board ships, shrinking the supply chain and lead times for specialised and complex parts.

Traditional parts used in shipbuilding and repair are typically manufactured via casting or forging techniques. For this project, the consortium says it utilised AM to fabricate three types of parts that are at least equivalent to conventionally manufactured products in terms of quality, if not better.

After six months in operation, all parts have since been retrieved and inspected by the vessel’s crew, followed by a remote survey by ABS, with the class society having now approved these additive manufactured spare parts after successful onboard testing.

“The superior performance of these parts in service is a testament to the rigorous engineering, manufacturing and post-production testing put in place by the team involved with this venture. We look forward to future opportunities to support our vessels with this technology,” said Robert Noyer, ConocoPhillips Polar Tankers Engineering Superintendent.

The three 3D printed parts used in the trial were: a gear set and gear shaft for a boiler fuel supply pump; a flexible coupling for a marine sanitation devices pump; and an ejector nozzle for a fresh water generator.

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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