Damen Shipyards Group has unveiled a 3D printed prototype of the world’s first class approved ship’s propeller named WAAMpeller with a diameter of 1,350mm.
To apply 3D printing techniques in creating the prototype, Damen shipyard entered a cooperative consortium with RAMLAB, Promarin, Autodesk and Bureau Veritas. The primary goal of the consortium is building for the maritime sector using latest technology such as 3D printing.
Kees Custers, Project Engineer in Damen’s R&D department said 3D printed materials builds up layer by layer displaying different physical properties in different directions – a characteristic known as anisotropy. The WAAMpeller 3D printed prototype represents a steep learning curve of the understanding of material properties.
“The challenge has been to translate a 3D CAD file on a computer into a physical product. This is made more complex because this propeller is a double-curved, geometric shape with some tricky overhanging sections,” explains Mr Custers.
According to Damen, the WAAMpeller was fabricated from a Nickel Aluminium Bronze (NAB) alloy at RAMLAB (Rotterdam Additive Manufacturing LAB) in the Port of Rotterdam. The propeller was produced with the Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) method using a Valk welding system and Autodesk software. The triple-blade structure uses a Promarin design that is used on Damen’s Stan Tug 1606.
The 400kg WAAMpeller has set a milestone in terms of 3D printing production techniques. Wei Ya, Postdoctoral Researcher from the University of Twente at RAMLAB said “For large scale 3D metal deposition, the WAAMpeller is really ground-breaking for the maritime industry.”
“This technology is a fundamental change in the concept of how we make things. With additive manufacturing, you can print most metallic components that are needed in principle. There is so much potential for the future – these techniques will have a big impact on the supply chain.” - Mr Ya.
Yannick Eberhard from Promarin’s R&D department adds that “the transformation from a semi-automatic to robotic processing is the solid foundation for even more complex and reliable future propeller designs“.
Damen is currently planning for the production of a second propeller with class approval later next month with the result achieved so far. The company said the first prototype "WAAMpeller" will be used for display purposes while the second one will be installed on one of the tugs.