Maersk Tankers will be testing a 3D printer on one of its ships to produce spare parts for machinery, including engine components. The Danish owner wants to reduce logistics costs for these parts by printing them on board. The company is working with MAN Diesel & Turbo, which supplies engine parts for tankers.
“The ideal scenario is that a spare part is ordered from a manufacturer, which e-mails over a digital blueprint [as an STL file], then the crew prints this out,” Maersk Tankers purchasing manager Markus Kuhn said. 3D printers use lasers to melt plastic resin and build the parts, layer upon layer. The process could be far less costly than shipping out the part, project manager Martha Rehnberg said.
“It can cost up to US$5,000 just to get one part on board a vessel. 3D printing would eliminate the costs of warehousing and packing airfreight to the port, customs clearance and chartering of the delivery ship,” she added.
A US$25,000 3D printer will be trialled on the Maersk tanker. The printer uses a powder of thermoplastic material, which can be liquefied by the laser, but then forms a tough engine component. If the trial proves a success, 3D printing could be used across the fleet and throughout other Maersk businesses. MEC