3D printing and the marine industry
Additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D Printing, is becoming the go-to option for manufacturing custom marine parts and devices. The development of this new technology enables more diverse materials to be used, and more efficient manufacturing at lower costs.
3D printing technology has been growing by leaps and bounds. It’s possible to make increasingly complex machinery and more robust structures that are lighter, stronger, and more durable than before. 3D printing can even improve on the quality and the aesthetics of the original product design — for example, by 3D printing vents and other exposed areas out of plastics, you can create custom manufactured parts that are stronger, lighter, and require less maintenance, for a fraction of the cost.
In 2016, a German company began production on 10m yachts where the hull had been completely fabricated by 3D printing, challenging notions of what is possible. Not only is 3D printing a viable solution for replacement parts and quick repairs at port, it’s allowing for new solutions to reduce the frequency and cost of recreational and luxury sea craft and rapidly customizing the vessel into something truly unique.
Parts: The Perfect Fit
In our Palm Beach facility, we have 3D scanners that can digitally replicate any object. Should a visiting yacht need a part replaced in the short time it’s at the Palm Beach harbor, we can quickly and cheaply produce a custom fit. Any component of the engine or mechanical system can be recreated in a short period down to the micrometer level — ensuring a part’s perfect fit. This creates a tight loop of identifying the problem, scanning and designing the required piece, and quickly fabricating and installing the replacement. By working with Halo, you won’t need to worry about a port running out of replacement parts for your ship.
Restoration and replacement
In the case of vintage ships, parts may no longer be manufactured at all. Halo Technologies can scan these vessels and not only fabricate appropriate parts, but can match the appearance of the existing ship while using a more resistant material — like a non-corrosive wood grain finish. This is true of both functional and non-functional parts, like a carved nautical figurehead on the bow of the ship.
3D printers onboard ships and just-in-time manufacturing
Large naval ships and cruise ships often have an onboard machine shop where the machinist can make or alter any parts needed to keep the ship in operating order until the ship can come to port. In early submersibles, the machining shop was so small that it was hardly recognizable. That being said, space was held at such a premium that it wasn’t uncommon to have crew bunks over top the torpedoes. Despite more available room than a WWII submersible, a machine shop is not a viable option for most leisure crafts, nor would one expect the owner of the yacht to be educated in the use of these machining tools. There is a 3D printing solution that can provide much of the same benefit.
The so-called ‘just in case’ system of having an array of spare parts can be replaced by a ‘just in time’ system where an onboard 3D printer can fabricate any number of parts using select building material kept onboard. High quality, perfect-fitting parts can be fabricated by relatively untrained people. The device would need only a design file to produce the part, or a 3D scanner used to capture the specifications of the part. This allows for minor repairs to be made at sea, avoiding the inconvenience and potential danger of being stranded due to a mechanical breakdown and having to radio for assistance.
Additionally, this solution requires a smaller amount of storage space than stocking the assortment of parts that may or may not be required on a given voyage.
Maintenance: New And Improved
Improved durability and functionality doesn’t have to come at the expense of aesthetics. For example, we can manufacture decking that’s similar to natural lumber, but will never rot, fade, crack, or swell. A deck can be composed of combination of actual wood and a polymeric binder — this results in a stronger, longer lasting material that will require little or no further maintenance from the ship’s owner, yet will remain beautiful for years to come.
There’s also the possibility to have exterior parts 3D printed — replacing the old parts with some new ones that will be stronger, lighter, and resistant to saltwater corrosion and UV damage. Again, this mitigates the need for ongoing maintenance of the ship while maintaining a pleasing aesthetic.
At Halo Technologies, we have the capacity to deploy both of these techniques while your yacht is on a layover at port.
Personalization & customization
Beyond the 3D printer’s efficiency and its cost savings, its most interesting feature is the ability to rapidly design custom fabrications. Whether you require something complicated, like a custom part for the engine, or something small and simple like a replacement drawer knob, 3D printing can have a perfect part produced by the time you leave the harbor.
Private yacht owners located in West Palm Beach Florida should contact Halo Technologies directly here for a one on one consultation with the design team to discuss customization / preventative maintenance options for their watercraft.