ABS approves 3D-printed parts after six-month trial on US tanker

A sequence of 3D-printed mechanical parts that have been used on board an in-service oil tanker have been validated as being in good working condition at the end of a six-month trial.

ABS, which participated in the project along with ConocoPhillips Polar Tankers, Sembcorp Marine Ltd, and 3D Metalforge, said that the project marked a milestone for the technology that could revolutionize how parts were made and supplied to ships in need of repairs.

The test project began in February 2021 with the fabrication and lab-testing of mechanical parts for use aboard the USA-flagged crude oil tanker Polar Endeavour (IMO 9193551). The tanker was outfitted with a gear set and gear shaft for boiler fuel supply pump, flexible coupling used on a marine sanitation devices pump, and an ejector nozzle for a fresh water generator, all produced by 3D-printing.

After six months in operation the parts were retrieved and inspected by the vessel’s crew, followed by a remote survey by ABS that confirmed their good condition. ABS has now approved these spare parts.

Patrick Ryan, Senior Vice President, Global Engineering and Technology for ABS, said that “it’s an important step forward for a technology that certainly has a significant role to play in the future of the marine industry. ABS is committed to ensuring these types of parts are introduced without compromising safety.”

According to ABS, the success of the trial and subsequent approval means 3D-printing can be used for products and components. The technology can permit parts to be fabricated locally or potentially on board ships and offshore assets. The result could be shrinking the supply chain and lead times for specialized and complex parts, introducing new efficiencies driven by design innovation, reduced manufacturing time, and improvements in parts availability.

Robert Noyer, Engineering Superintendent for ConocoPhillips Polar Tankers which supplied the ship for the test, said that “the superior performance of these parts in service is a testament to the rigorous engineering, manufacturing, and post-production testing put in place by the team involved with this venture. We look forward to future opportunities to support our vessels with this technology.”

201-built, USA-flagged, 85,387 gt Polar Endeavour  is owned and managed by Polar Tankers Inc of Houston, Texas. It is entered with Standard Club (International Division) on behalf of Polar Tankers Inc.