A prototype of the world’s first class approved ship’s propeller has been produced using 3D printing techniques. The 1,350 mm diameter propeller – named WAAMpeller – is the result of a cooperative consortium of companies that includes Damen Shipyards Group, RAMLAB, Promarin, Autodesk and Bureau Veritas.
The WAAMpeller was fabricated from a nickel aluminium bronze (NAB) alloy at RAMLAB (Rotterdam Additive Manufacturing LAB) in the Port of Rotterdam. The propeller was produced with the wire arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) method using a Valk welding system and Autodesk software. The triple-blade structure uses a Promarin design that is used on Damen’s Stan Tug 1606. With production complete, the WAAMpeller will be CNC milled at Autodesk’s advanced manufacturing facility in Birmingham, UK.
“This prototype 3D printed propeller represents a steep learning curve of the understanding of material properties. This is because 3D printed materials are built up layer by layer,” commented Kees Custers, project engineer in Damen’s R&D department. “As a consequence, they display different physical properties in different directions – a characteristic known as anisotropy. Steel or casted materials, on the other hand, are isotropic – they have the same properties in all directions.”
This first prototype WAAMpeller will be used for display purposes, and planning for a second example is already underway.