World’s First 3D Printed Ship Propeller

Dutch shipbuilding group Damen has received class approval for the world’s first 3D printed ship propeller.

The propeller, known as the WAAMpeller, was verified by international classification society Bureau Veritas following seven months under development by five companies; RAMLAB, Promarin, Autodesk, Bureau Veritas and Damen.

The consortium reached its first milestone in August with the completion of the first WAAMpeller prototype, which was installed on a Damen Stan Tug 1606 for testing in Dordrecht, Netherlands. The prototype was followed up by second version with the goal of class certification.

The propeller itself is made from 298 layers of 3D printed Nickel Aluminium Bronze alloy.

Operational testing of the propeller took place on November 20 with all partners in the project present. The testing program included bollard pull and crash stop testing, in addition to speed trials. During the crash stop testing, the team tested going from full throttle ahead to full throttle reverse – the heaviest loading that a propeller can experience.

“Of course, we were all a bit nervous beforehand – after all, innovation always comes with a certain amount of unknowns – but the testing was a success,” says Kees Custers, Damen Project Engineer R&D.

“We are pleased to report that the WAAMpeller displayed the same behaviour as a conventional casted propeller in all of the tests,” he added.

Looking at the bigger picture, Allard Castelein, CEO Port of Rotterdam, highlighted the role that 3D printing could have on the future of shipbuilding.

“This project has shown the shipbuilding industry the potential of 3D printing techniques for the production of vessel components. We continue our intensive research into this very exciting area,” said Castelein.