The five-company partnership started pooling their collective resources and knowledge to develop the world’s first 3D printed ship’s propeller, the WAAMpeller, seven months ago. Promarin provided the design of the triple-blade propeller. The Port of Rotterdam’s RAMLAB (Rotterdam Additive Manufacturing LAB) carried out fabrication using Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) techniques, supported by Autodesk’s expertise in software, robotics and additive manufacturing.

Damen provided Research and Development resources, in addition to one of its Stan Tug 1606 vessels for operational testing purposes. Bureau Veritas’ role was to verify the entire development, production and testing process.

The consortium reached its first milestone in August with the completion of the first WAAMpeller prototype, when started production of the second version, with the aim of achieving class certification.

With the second WAAMpeller complete, the project then progressed to the testing stage, the first phase of which saw the WAAMpeller installed on a Damen Stan Tug 1606. Damen’s testing engineers performed operational testing of the WAAMpeller on 20 November, with representatives from all of the consortium partners present and the day’s procedures overseen by Bureau Veritas surveyors throughout.

“This particular vessel is of extra interest in that it is equipped with a Tier III compliant engine, making it future proof for the ever stricter environmental rules and regulations in harbours around the world”, comments Martin de Bruijn, Managing Director Workboats at Damen.

The testing programme concluded successfully and included bollard pull and crash stop testing in addition to speed trials.

“We are pleased to report that the WAAMpeller displayed the same behaviour as a conventional casted propeller in all of the tests. This includes the same level of performance in the crash stop scenario, which – going from full throttle ahead to full throttle reverse – is the heaviest loading that a propeller can experience," says Kees Custers, Damen Project Engineer R&D.

Talking before the WAAMpeller unveiling event, which took place on 30 November, Allard Castelein, CEO Port of Rotterdam, identified  the implications of the WAAMpeller project on the maritime industry.

“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.”