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Enjoying smooth sailing with Stratasys additive manufacturing

13 June 2016

In today’s fast-moving age, the winds of change require product design and manufacturing companies to constantly keep up with, not only globalisation trends and market policies, but also customer demands.

Assembly of a Stratasys 3D printed rudder

This rapid pace fuels innovation and marvellous creations, but can be very costly and time-intensive for many product manufacturers and service providers. 

Having previously outsourced all 3D printing requirements, shipping and marine testing facility, HSVA, plotted a course towards an in-house additive manufacturing solution, and subsequently equipped itself with a Stratasys 3D Printer.

The demand for in-house technology

Based in Germany, the Hamburg Ship Model Basin (HSVA) is an independent, privately managed company specialising in providing research & consultancy, testing & development to the worldwide maritime industry. Established over a century ago, HSVA not only assesses the technology and structural components of ships and maritime equipment, but offers optimisation and detection of hydrodynamic and structural problems. The company tests maritime models, while also developing in-house software for nautical applications.

HSVA Mechanical Design Engineer, Michael Neumeier, said a full-size ship is a complex geometric form with many complicated shapes that have to be re-produced true-to-scale. With so many different complex structures and fittings, the move to a Stratasys 3D Printer was the ideal solution to keep up with manufacturing demand and reduce production time of different parts.

Complex solutions fit for maritime industry

The installation of the Stratasys PolyJet-based 3D Printer has allowed HSVA to produce strong, high performance plastic prototype parts while conforming to the standards of quality and precision expected. Replacing traditional manufacturing techniques, the 3D printer enables HSVA to save time on the production and replacement of various parts.

Neumeier notes that to traditionally manufacture a prototype ship rudder in wood or plastic is a very skilled and labour-intensive job and typically takes up to three weeks to produce. With the Stratasys 3D printer, HSVA can produce parts within a day, which after cleaning, are ready for final assembly.

Of particular benefit, the Stratasys 3D Printer’s ability to print very complex shapes in a short timeframe helped HSVA to produce the case for the model azimuth propulsor drives (also known as “Pods”). This highly advanced marine propulsion system was very difficult to produce and assemble.

Due to the geometry of the 3D printed strut, the gearbox can easily be changed by removing just one part of the strut. This was too difficult with the traditionally produced milled strut connector, but according to Neumeier, Stratasys 3D printing has changed this.

Being able to print the various parts on the Stratasys 3D Printer makes assembly much easier. This has seen HSVA slash lead times by as much as 70 percent, which has resulted in significant cost reduction of around 30 percent. It’s now difficult to imagine life without the in-house 3D printing capability, Neumeier states.

Material requirements meet rigorous testing standards

Material advancements in particular enable the production of tough, realistic prototypes that can endure rigorous functional testing during the development phase. The 3D printed parts used by HSVA are all in a VeroGray, an opaque and rigid material which provides smooth surface quality, high dimensional stability and great detail visualisation. Having to withstand rigorous testing, the VeroGray parts require high material strength and detailed precision – all key attributes of Stratasys PolyJet technology.

Michael Neumeier expresses his appreciation of the technology. Stratasys has been extremely supportive during installation, and the technology is now being used in almost every department. Not only have the company cut lead times and costs, but the need for less human intervention throughout prototype production ensures maximum process stability and reliability.

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