Vision for large scale additive manufacturing in cruise ship outfitting
Additive manufacturing is a hot topic in many industries and the benefits realized from successfully utilising AM can be substantial. While AM offers many interesting possibilities, there is not widespread utilisation of AM in Marine industry currently. Main barriers to overcome are cost, scale of parts/production batches and demanding QA and regulations.
However, these barriers are not deterring people pushing the limits of the technology. Few examples of notable cases and uses: 3D-printed spare parts even aboard the ships, Ramlab Waampeller, mockups of structures etc.
Using fused granular fabrication (FGF) the scale of individual parts can be easily increased to dimensions that are more suitable for cruise vessel outfitting. With parts with dimensions of multiple meters one can create very large finished products to be installed aboard. With FGF there is another benefit: Overall cost of feedstock is very low, compared to feedstock only produced for AM. Even though the prices of the material are low, the printing time increases costs significantly and a good compromise of quality and extrusion speed should be determined case-by-case. According to a study made by Robert Hekkenberg the price for steel hull of an inland vessel could be around 2,5 €/kg making it a quite impossible price point to reach, even for FGF once factoring in production costs. Therefore use-cases need to be selected keeping that and the maturity of technology and material combination in mind.
The use-cases can be for example non-structural features and facades, which in maritime industry are quite unique features limited mainly to passenger vessels. Many times these meter-scale features can be one-offs or very limited production quantities and with complex shapes. As there is a shift in design into sleek or complicated forms that consist of geometries that would be very hard to make from sheet materials. AM could prove to be an useful tool in reducing the costs associated with production of these forms.
With this background in mind, let me present you a small vision of what could lie ahead:
Where applicable glassfiber, gypsum and aluminium constructions could be replaced reliably with sustainable bio based materials. Cruise vessels go through refit cycles every five to ten years. Could these cruise vessel interiors and features be recyclable on site? With materials that can go through multiple production cycles and with flexible means of production this could become real. Of course this would require significant standardisation of processes and co-operation from shipyards, outfitters and ship-owners alike. However, with technology progressing at the current rates, it might be closer than we think!