Photo credit: the Flexbot Maritime system manufacturing a boat at Al Seer Marine.

Large format additive manufacturing for the maritime industry

CEAD’s industrial 3D printing solutions for the maritime sector are revolutionizing the industry. On this page we elaborate on the advantages of 3D printing for maritime applications, discuss various 3D printing materials for maritime industry and delve into CEAD’s machines for large format additive manufacturing for the maritime industry.

Continue reading to explore how our expertise in additive manufacturing is reshaping shipbuilding. In need of answers to your industrial 3D printing questions? Contact our maritime experts for input related to your application or download the brochure of our LFAM machine: the Maritime Flexbot.

Industrial 3D printing applications for shipbuilding

The advantages of industrial 3D printing match perfectly with the demands from within the maritime industry. Large format additive manufacturing knows multiple use cases in the maritime sector. We distinguish two main categories maritime 3D prints: end parts and molds.

3D printed end parts for the maritime industry

The first category, refers to prints that are functional products. A great example of a printed product for the maritime industry can be found in Al Seer Marine’s 3D printed water taxi. The boat, seen in the picture below, measures 11.98 meters long, 3.59-meter wide and is crafted from 67% recycled materials.

Al Seer Marine used a custom Flexbot machine with two robots mounted on linear tracks (build volume 4x36m) to manufacture this 3D printed boat, securing the Guiness World Records™ title for the largest 3D printed boat. The modularity of CEAD’s machines eliminates any obstacles for large format additive manufacturing of boats.

The ability to 3D print entire boat hulls compared to traditional manufacturing methods is specifically interesting. The approach of additive manufacturing, encompassing entire boat structures, translates to significant savings in labor and costs. This is due to the absence of part procurement, less expenses related to purchasing, transport, storage, and assembly.

Besides printing entire boats, industrial 3D printing can also be used to manufacture individual components. Think, among others, of intricately designed staircases, hatches and interieur furnishings. If you can design it, you can print it. An example of such a part can be found in the 3D printed benches on the printed boat seen in the photo below. Both the boat and additional components have been 3D printed using CEAD’s Flexbot.

3D printed plastic boat

Photo credit: the 3D printed water taxi by Al Seer Marine

3D printed molds and tooling for the maritime industry

3D printing in the maritime industry is not just used for the manufacturing of end parts. The technology itself lends itself well for the creation of molds and tooling. CEAD’s Flexbot is not only able to manufacture using additive techniques, but also by subtracting (by milling and sanding). This combination opens a vast realm of possibilities for manufacturing molds and tooling from design to finish.

Think for example of 3D printed molds that are used to manufacture entire ship hulls. The printed and post-processed moulds are impregnated with carbon fibre, creating a composite structure with increased mechanical properties.

Other use cases for molds and tooling for the maritime industry can be found in molds for complex ship propellors or for dashboards/navigation equipment housings. The latter provides an excellent example for the high customization that 3D printing offers.

The use of 3D printing for molds as opposed to traditional methods enables rapid prototyping, complex geometries, saves time and costs and allows specific customization.

Advantages of industrial 3D printing for the maritime industry

In the ever-evolving landscape of manufacturing, the maritime sector has enthusiastically embraced the advantages offered by additive manufacturing. Just as other industries have reaped the benefits, the maritime industry is leveraging the power of industrial 3D printing to revolutionize its approach to production.

Additive manufacturing offers the following advantages for the maritime industry:

1. Customization and Design Flexibility

CEAD’s technology empowers the maritime industry to produce highly customized and intricate geometries, providing unmatched design flexibility tailored to specific ship requirements. Use our design guidelines for large format 3D printing to get a head start on additive manufacturing.

2. Rapid prototyping

In contrast to the time-intensive processes of traditional manufacturing, 3D printing facilitates rapid prototyping and on-demand production. This significantly reduces lead times, helps to reduce the required stock, which proves crucial in minimizing downtime during repairs or maintenance.

3. Cost Saving

Given the decrease in manual labor, assembly, procurement, storage and assembly, automated production for certain components or even entire boats proves to be more economical than traditional manufacturing methods. On-demand production capabilities also attribute to a reduction in costs associated with maintaining extensive spare part inventories.

PIPG for large format 3D printing

4. Reduction of manual labor

Industrial 3D printing automates the production of components and structures, minimizing the need for extensive manual labor and human-intervention significantly.

Traditional manufacturing processes often involve intricate assembly and labor-intensive procedures, requiring specialized expertise which is increasingly hard to find. Implementing LFAM poses a solution by automating and streamlining the manufacturing process a, simultaneously contributing to increased efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Generally speaking, the bigger the boat, the more manual labor can be replaced by using additive manufacturing.

5. Integration of multiple parts in one design

3D printed boats consist of less parts than traditionally manufactured boats, since design for 3D printing can fuse multiple parts into one print. This integration of multiple parts into a unified design reduces dependency on multiple suppliers, shortens lead times and further decreases the need for manual labor. This innovative approach enhances efficiency in the manufacturing process.

6. Environmental impact

In alignment with sustainability goals, 3D printing in the maritime industry results in a significant reduction in material waste compared to traditional manufacturing methods. Significant material is saved by not using molds but printing end parts (or complete hulls) directly. The ability to print complex shapes with minimal material usage emphasizes a commitment to environmental responsibility.

Additionally, material from used molds or prints with errors can be shredded and recycled in future prints. Industrial 3D printing truly helps to close the loop. A great example can be found in the boat printed by Al Seer Marine, which consists for 67% of recycled material.

7. Decrease of transportation costs

With traditional manufacturing you are dependent on different suppliers for materials and parts. This means that you have to work with delivery times (third party stock is not always in order) and multiple transports. Additive manufacturing eliminates these costs. If you have your own material you can start printing tomorrow and you only rely on transport from your material supplier.

8. Weight reduction

Additive manufacturing enables the creation of lightweight yet robust structures, contributing to an overall reduction in ship weight. This, in turn, enhances fuel efficiency and elevates overall vessel performance. CEAD’s application engineers support the maritime industry in optimizing the weight of printed vessels or by designing optimized moulds.

9. Great variety of materials

CEAD’s machines can process virtually all (fiber-reinforced) thermoplastics. Material suppliers are continuously developing innovative 3D printing materials that attain certain qualities. By choosing the right material, it can ensure the necessary resistance to saltwater, waterproofing, and protection against moisture absorption. If needed, these materials can be modified to obtain a lower flammability. Read more about materials used for the maritime industry below.

PIPG for large format 3D printing

The Flexbot: CEAD’s Maritime industrial 3D printer

Whether it’s the fabrication of structural end parts or the intricate molding of essential components, CEAD’s technology is at the forefront of pioneering solutions. The Flexbot is CEAD’s all-in-one solution for automated large scale additive and subtractive manufacturing for the maritime industry.

The controls of this robot based solution are integrated into a CNC system, allowing for precise movements along a complex toolpath and eliminating the need for a separate robot controller.

Additionally, the Flexbot can easily be configured for different size solutions due to the modular design. The system can be upgraded with multiple robots (that can print simultaneously), linear tracks and different types of extruders.

The Flexbot provides the tools that the maritime industry needs. The machine is capable of both additive and subtractive manufacturing. This semi-automated workflow allows you to post process printed end parts with the same machine on the same run. This allows the part to be milled or sanded to perfectly fit your application.

Materials used for large format additive manufacturing for the maritime industry

When choosing materials for maritime applications, certain key characteristics play a crucial role in ensuring optimal performance and longevity. CEAD’s Extruders are able to process short fiber filled materials as well as modified materials, expanding the range of possibilities. Think for example of materials modified against flammability.

The selection process is guided by the following considerations:

  • Lightweight Properties: Materials chosen must possess low density to ensure buoyancy, a critical factor for ensuring that the boat remains afloat.
  • UV Stabilization: Opting for modified materials with UV stabilization and modification ensures resistance to the degrading effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, a prevalent factor in marine environments.
  • Water Repellency: Prioritizing water-repellent and modified materials is essential to enhance resistance against water absorption, crucial for maintaining structural integrity over prolonged exposure to marine conditions.
  • Stress Resistance: Selected materials should exhibit high stress resistance, a prerequisite for withstanding the dynamic and often rigorous conditions experienced in the maritime environment.
  • Low Shrinkage/Expansion: Minimizing shrinkage and expansion, especially for larger structures, is imperative to ensure dimensional stability and structural reliability over time.
  • Anti-Bacterial, Anti-Fouling, Anti-Algal Properties: Opting for materials with anti-bacterial properties, anti-fouling characteristics, and resistance to algae growth is advantageous in maintaining a clean and efficient marine structure.
  • Fire Resistance: Materials with inherent or modified fire-resistant properties are beneficial, providing an added layer of safety in the event of fire-related risks.
  • Customizable Color: The capability to self-color the material adds versatility, allowing for customization based on aesthetic preferences or functional requirements.

Revolutionize your production process with CEAD industrial maritime 3D printers

CEAD’s dedication to the maritime industry is marked by vast experience, in-depth knowledge, and active engagement. Multiple Flexbots are already making waves in the maritime sector. Our application engineers and customer support engineers continue to support these clients to push the boundaries of additive manufacturing. For inquiries, collaborations, or to initiate a pilot project, contact CEAD’s maritime specialists. Take the next step in revolutionizing your production process with CEAD’s industrial maritime 3D printers.