Transport

Robust new 3D printed parts installed onboard ‘Polar Endeavour’ oil tanker

A manufacturing consortium including ABS, Sembcorp Marine and 3D Metalforge have fitted enhanced 3D printed parts to a ConocoPhillips polar oil tanker. 

Using 3D printing, the companies created a functional centrifugal pump shaft, a combined brine/air injector nozzle, and an effluent pump coupling device for the ‘Polar Endeavour.’ Each of the ship’s new parts has not only passed industry safety checks, but they’ve also reportedly outperformed many mass-manufactured alternatives. 

“The collaboration with ABS and 3D Metalforge is a continuation of Sembcorp Marine’s drive to innovate and improve our production capacities and capabilities,” said Simon Kuik, Head of R&D at Sembcorp. “This development enables Sembcorp Marine to further refine our products and deliver customized solutions safely and more efficiently.”

The three different 3D printed parts (pictured) managed to pass industry standard durability tests. Photo via ABS.

Sembcorp’s maritime mission 

Between them, ABS and Sembcorp have built up substantial experience in 3D printing seaworthy parts over the last few years. In particular, ABS is heavily involved in the regulatory side of maritime AM, and it recently released parameter sets for fabricating offshore objects, placing a specific emphasis on process repeatability. 

Sembcorp, meanwhile, is somewhat of an offshore production specialist, and it has deployed 3D printing within its MRO operations for over four years. The company has close ties with Singapore’s National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster, and the firms have worked together to develop digital twins of entire ship designs

Elsewhere, Sembcorp has pledged to utilize 3D printing to create large-scale structures for new vessels and conduct ship-wide repairs. More recently, the firm has also developed parameter sets for new additive parts and sought out novel applications of the technology in the maritime sector. 

In 2019, Sembcorp gained certification from DNV GL to use 3D printing as a means of repairing non-critical parts, such as the worn-out metal sleeves often used in pumps. Now, as part of its latest nautical project, the company has partnered with ABS and 3D Metalforge to create components that aren’t just novel but represent a functional improvement on the parts they’re replacing. 

The ConocoPhillips Polar Endeavour oil tanker.
ConocoPhillips’ Polar Endeavour oil tanker (pictured) is now home to three types of 3D printed part. Photo via ConocoPhillips.

Decking out the Polar Endeavour 

Operated by ConocoPhillips, the Polar Endeavour is a 20-year-old crude oil tanker, and given that it’s constantly tasked with carrying heavy loads along U.S. shores, its functional parts need to be foolproof. At present, the ship’s spares and repairs are produced via traditional casting or forging techniques, but now the ABS-led group has deployed 3D printing to give them an upgrade. 

During the project, the consortium fabricated three very different components and subjected them to rigorous industry-standard tests. Having passed the marine trials with flying colors, the enhanced parts are now installed onboard the Polar Endeavour, ready to take on whatever challenges the sea has to throw at them. 

Although ABS’ Senior VP of Global Engineering and Technology Patrick Ryan said the firm was “proud to support the project,” he emphasized the importance of safety within future R&D. “It’s a key development in a technology that certainly has a significant role to play in the future of the industry,” said Ryan. “ABS is committed to ensuring these types of parts are introduced without compromising safety.”

In addition to outperforming conventional maritime components, the 3D printed versions also proved the technology’s potential for reducing lead times. Given that other maritime bodies such as the Dutch Navy are increasingly 3D printing spares on-demand, the project could act as a precursor to improving part availability onboard commercial ships as well.

Additive manufacturing at sea

3D printing has built up a head of steam in the naval engineering sector, with many shipbuilders trialing the technology to produce end-use parts. 

Spanish shipbuilder Navantia has even partnered with the University of Cádiz (UCA) to develop a purpose-built maritime 3D printer. Using the custom system, which they nicknamed ‘S-Discovery,’ the engineers were able to fabricate two grills for the ventilation system of the Monte Udala Suezmax oil tanker. 

Additive manufacturing has also found extensive naval military applications recently. In January 2021, for instance, defense contractor Naval Group 3D printed an entire propeller for the French Navy. Featuring a 2.5-meter span and five 200kg blades, the large-format part is reportedly the biggest of its kind in the world. 

Similarly, the U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) has started to approve 3D printed parts for shipboard installation. The first sanctioned component, a prototype drain strainer orifice (DSO) assembly, was designed to enable drainage from steam lines on aircraft carriers. 

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Featured image shows ConocoPhillips’ Polar Endeavour oil tanker. Photo via ConocoPhillips.

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