Merchant ship owners to produce spare parts on demand using 3D printing

Merchant ship owners will now use 3D printing technology. Source: Shutterstock

MERCHANT ships are massive — often spanning a few hundred feet — and have thousands of moving parts.

Given the progress made by cross-border trade and commerce post-globalization, and the recent rise of e-commerce, more than 50,000 ships undertake nearly half-a-million voyages every year.

To avoid catastrophes while at sea, merchant ships need to be serviced often. One of the major costs that merchant ship owners have to account for when it comes to maintenance is the inventory cost of spare parts given the number of spares that must be carried at any given time.

The other challenge to effective maintenance is that ships travel from one port to another during its voyage. If something needs to be repaired when it is not at its home, spares must be sent to the port where it is docked.

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How 3D printing is changing production models

Additive manufacturing is no longer just for prototypes. Its increasing popularity and technical capabilities have pushed it into position to change the way manufacturers manage their spare parts inventory.

No matter how technologies change, or what new innovations break into the mainstream, the basic goals of manufacturing remain the same: Reduce unplanned downtime, reduce costs, eliminate unnecessary waste, etc. How fortunate it is that 3D printing (a.k.a. additive manufacturing) is one of those cool, innovative technologies that is finding itself a very nice spot in the realm of day-to-day cost and time savings. Not only can it be used to produce interesting and previously impossible designs, it has also become a useful way to change spare parts management.

When a system goes down, making the repairs needed to get it back up and running can be time-consuming. Even more so if the part that needs replacing is no longer readily available. With the right program in place, additive manufacturing can build that part on demand—whether through reverse engineering, digital files from the component supplier, or perhaps through the supplier itself.

In recent years, advances in the printing technology, in the materials that can be used, and the software control of the end-to-end workflow have fundamentally changed the way parts can be made with additive manufacturing, says John Nanry, co-founder and chief product officer at Fast Radius, which provides 3D printing services.

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Aalto University develops 3D printing database to help conventional manufacturing make the switch

EIT Digital, a digital innovation, education community and accelerator of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT), has supported the creation of a 3D printing database. Developed to help manufacturers identify potential time and cost savings, the directory aims to encourage more businesses to switch to 3D printing instead of conventional methods.

Aalto University Finland created the database, which will be rolled out as a plugin for 3D data expert software from industrial partner DeskArtes, also based in Finland. Leading manufacturing company and 3D software developer Siemens created knowledge graphs for the system, ensuring logical links between all collected data.

The Big Data behind 3D printing

When developing under Industry 4.0, conventional manufacturing businesses are challenged with rethinking the way things are done. For 3D printing’s part in this, many stakeholders are rising to the aid of these businesses at a peak point of transition.

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Who will make the most automotive AM end-use parts and where?

SmarTech Analysis just released a new report on automotive additive manufacturing. This new edition follows the report published compiled last year, however, this is not just a new and updated edition. It is an entirely new report, which, for the first time, moves entirely away from AM for prototypes to focus exclusively on automotive AM end-use parts production, which is now fully within reach and is going to enable additive manufacturing to finally scale up.

The term “end-use parts” is used in the report to indicate both final automotive parts and tools (and tools include molds, dies, jigs and fixtures as well as custom assembly tools) used in the automotive production process.

The depth of automotive AM end-use parts

In order to provide new and more detailed information in its forecasts, the report leverages data from SmarTech’s unique and industry-leading database and dissects into more segments. These include two key areas: one is geographic, with country-specific forecasts. The other is relative to the supply chain, trying to answer the question that most automakers are asking themselves: where is the money coming from (that will drive AM adoption in the automotive industry)?

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Deutsche Bahn leverages Gefertec 3DMP technology to 3D print spare railway parts

German railway company Deutsche Bahn is integrating metal additive manufacturing 3DMP technology from GEFERTEC to improve the availability of hard-to-procure spare parts.

Inside a 3DMP 3D printer. Photo via GEFERTEC

The 3DMP process was implemented for the first time as part of this pilot project.  According to Dr. Tina Schlingmann, a Senior Consultant of complete railway systems technology at Deutsche Bahn, availability is a big issue for the company. 3DPM is being used to service vehicles for older locomotives, including now obsolete parts.

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Immensa recreates spare parts using 3D printing

Immensa Technology Labs, a regional additive manufacturing (AM) company, has been working closely with numerous UAE and regional organisations on projects related to AM and utilisation of the technology in their respective operations.

Outside the oil and gas sector, Consolidated Contractors Company began working with Immensa in 2017 and, by the third quarter of 2018, had implemented AM across various functions within its organisation. Other companies, including Victory Team in the marine sector, Dubai Health Authority in the healthcare sector and Etihad Group in aviation, have all embraced the technology and are leveraging the value of AM.

Industry specific

In oil and gas, several companies in the region have started exploring AM. Arabian Oasis Industries (AOI), a division of Dubai-based Al-Shirawi group, has engaged Immensa to identify how it can leverage AM in its business. Today AOI and Immensa are working on multiple projects falling into three categories: custom replacement parts, optimising existing parts and certification of industry-specific parts.
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3D printing could provide new layer of truck part availability

While it won’t go down as the most famous printing invention ever — Johannes Gutenberg’s creation seems likely to hold that title in perpetuity — few technologies in recent decades have been as developmentally groundbreaking as 3D printing.

3D Printing Machine

Introduced in the 1980s and greatly refined over the last decade, 3D printing is a production method using advanced computer technology in which the composition of a material is altered then reshaped and molded to create a three-dimensional object.

Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is a production method with strengths and weaknesses. It’s not a great way to make everything but it is a great way to make specific products ill-suited for mass production.

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CNH Industrial 3D prints its first spare part

The company produced four spare parts for fitment on buses and agriculture equipment.

Getty Images922778062Grain Combine

According to Automotive Logistics, the company produced four spare parts for fitment on buses and agriculture equipment. Each product can be printed within 24-36 hours with the optimal amount of resources.At the time of this publication, CNH did not disclose which parts were made.

Since the spare parts were printed in plastic, CNH is now conducting tests to enable future production of metal components using the technology. 3D printing offers the benefit of local, on-demand manufacturing and removed the need for small-scale deliveries, maximizing efficiency in the aftermarket supply chain, Automotive Logistics reports.

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Busses and tractors to receive 3D-printed spare parts

(Image courtesy of New Holland.)

One application primed for disruption by 3D printing technology is the production of spare parts. After all, why house a warehouse full of odd components for just the right moment when you or a customer will need one?

This is especially true for large, unique systems and equipment, where mass production of individual specialty pieces is that much rarer. London and Amsterdam-based CNH Industrial has picked up on this insight and has begun fabricating spare parts for its industrial equipment.

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3D printing technology enhancing logistics for Army

A Soldier holds a cap used to protect the fire extinguishing system housed in the wheel wells of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. Without the cap, MRAPs are deemed non-mission-capable. Soldiers in Korea saved 1,472 operational days for their MRAPs by 3-D printing the caps for about $2.50 each.
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This photo shows a 3D printer producing six-inch cap, used to protect the fire extinguishing system housed the wheel wells of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. Soldiers in Korea identified a fire-suppression cap degradation issue and turned to 3D printing technology for help. The team requested engineering support from the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.
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FORT MEADE, Md. — As 3D printing increases both in the field and at depots, the Army’s Center of Excellence for Additive and Advanced Manufacturing is slated to reach initial operating capability this year at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois.

Lt. Gen. Aundre Piggee, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, G-4, outlined the Army’s current 3D printing capabilities at the 2019 Military Additive Manufacturing Summit and Technology Showcase Feb. 6, in Tampa, Florida. 

At the summit, defense, academia, and industry officials were privy to the latest additive manufacturing technologies, event officials said. The Army will leverage these improved 3D printing capabilities to bolster equipment readiness and reduce logistics burdens, Piggee said.

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