3D Metalforge (ASX: 3MF) has finalised testing of a set of functional additive manufactured parts onboard the Polar Endeavour crude oil tanker operated by ConocoPhillips.
Parts including a centrifugal pump shaft, a combined brine/air injector nozzle and an effluent pump coupling device were fabricated using the additive manufacturing process, before being tested on the vessel over a six month period by a consortium including American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), Sembcorp Marine and 3D Metalforge.
The pioneering project started in February when the parts were manufactured and subject to rigorous industry-standard tests before being installed onto the tanker.
Inspection by the vessel’s crew and remote surveying by the ABS confirmed the parts to be in good working condition after the testing period had ended.
Marine industry adoption
3D Metalforge managing director Matthew Waterhouse said the success of the project would augur well for the adoption of additive manufacturing in the marine industry.
“We are proud to work as a trusted partner alongside ABS, Sembcorp and ConocoPhillips to provide greater value through new and innovative manufacturing solutions, and to help meet changing component manufacturing, supply chain and sustainability challenges,” he said.
“The inspection and validation of these additive manufactured components supports our belief in this technology [and we expect] these capabilities will broaden its commercial applications and acceptance in the future.”
Layer by layer
Additive manufacturing creates industrial parts by adding materials layer by layer and allows products and components to be fabricated locally or potentially onboard ships and offshore assets.
This capability could potentially shrink the supply chain and lead times for specialised and complex parts, and introduce new efficiencies driven by design innovation, reduced manufacturing time and improvements in parts availability.
Traditionally, parts used in shipbuilding and repair have been manufactured using casting or forging techniques.
The Endeavour project consortium utilised additive manufacturing to fabricate three components which matched the quality standards of conventionally-fabricated products.
While the value of the project was not material to 3D Metalforge, Mr Waterhouse said the scope of work demonstrated the company’s commitment to partnering with tier one firms in the promotion of additive manufacturing technologies.
The Polar Endeavour is a 20-year-old crude oil tanker charged with carrying heavy loads along US shores.
The nature of its work means its functional parts need to be fool proof.
At present, the ship’s spares and repairs are produced using traditional casting or forging techniques, but Mr Waterhouse said 3D printing could potentially change this for future applications.