Submarine components from 3D printers go into series production

Industrial components from state-of-the-art 3D printers have decisive advantages over conventionally produced components. By setting up their own team of specialists for additive manufacturing, the naval experts at thyssenkrupp in Kiel are now pursuing a major goal: the rapid and cost-effective series production of 3D-printed submarine components on the local fjord.

thyssenkrupp Marine Systems plans to make increased use of 3D printers in the production of submarine components. Compared to conventionally produced components, the parts produced by the 3D printer offer decisive advantages, explains Dr. Luis Alejandro Orellano, COO of thyssenkrupp Marine Systems: “3D printing opens up new potential for us. We no longer have to consider the limitations of conventional production methods everywhere in our design work.

Less weight, yet fast and flexible

At the same time, “additive manufacturing”, as 3D printing is known in the industry, allows components to be produced faster and more cost-effectively. In addition, the printers enable more complex structures that are at the same time more robust, stronger and lighter than components produced using conventional methods. In addition to conventional process steps, such as tool or mould making, this also eliminates the need to manufacture many small elements that have to be assembled individually.

Standard parts from the 3D printer are already being installed in submarines today. The team from Kiel has already successfully installed plastic bundle holders for tubes from the 3D printer in thyssenkrupp submarines. The same applies to printed steel components – for example the housing cover of a ventilation system.

Industrial 3D printing makes it possible to create even the most complex geometrical shapes quickly, cheaply and with high quality.

Industrial 3D printing makes it possible to create even the most complex geometrical shapes quickly, cheaply and with high quality.

The use of a 3D printer can reduce production costs, especially for complex components with low volumes. To produce a hydraulic block for a submarine, for example, 83 percent of the weight can be saved – from 14 to 2.1 kilograms. This not only means more freedom in the use of the available space on a submarine, but also makes everyday work easier for production staff.

Innovative production expertise

With the acquisition of the thyssenkrupp TechCenter Additive Manufacturing in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany, the technology and expertise required for innovative production will now also come to thyssenkrupp Marine Systems on the Kiel Fjord. The relevant quality and safety approvals for series production have already been obtained, says Dr. Luis Alejandro Orellano: “The necessary know-how and equipment we have in Kiel will allow us to produce smaller batches quickly and easily in the future.

In May 2020 the former Mühlheim TechCenter was already integrated into the Group’s marine business. The relocation of the facilities is also expected to be completed by the beginning of 2021. In addition to the already existing 3D printers, the facilities in Kiel will then be supplemented by metal printers for the production of steel components. This is a unique production competence which requires a high level of quality, for example in terms of air conditioning, premises and security precautions.

At the TechCenter Additive Manufacturing, thyssenkrupp industrializes the 3D printing of metals and plastics. The entire planning and manufacturing process is handled digitally.

With Additive Manufacturing, thyssenkrupp Marine Systems can industrialize the 3D printing of metals and plastics in series production. The planning and manufacturing process is handled digitally.

Looking to the future

In summer 2019 the thyssenkrupp TechCenter Additive Manufacturing became the world’s first manufacturer of 3D printed components for maritime applications to be granted manufacturer approval by the renowned classification society DNV GL. A quality standard on which the experts in Kiel can now build. The certificate guarantees the material properties of the finished component in accordance with defined standards issued by independent testing institutes. This is an important step on the way to series production – because the materials used in Kiel submarines have high quality standards.

In the future, thyssenkrupp Marine Systems plans to use 3D printers above all in the production of the parts required in small batches for a submarine. The company will focus not only on components for new-build ships but also on spare parts production to offer their customers further service options

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