A digital inventory and on-demand spare parts system has been deployed to several early adopters in the maritime industry.
The service, implemented by Wilhelmsen’s Marine Products division in partnership with Ivaldi Group, is to provide not only digitization and storage of 3D models for commonly required spare parts, but also production of certified versions of those parts for use in ships.
According to a report in Maritime Executive:
“Wilhelmsen, as part of their ongoing cooperation with Ivaldi Group, will provide spare parts on demand to the selected six customers’ vessels around the globe. Through a unique digitization and certification process, parts will be produced on-demand, without having to go through time consuming and costly storage, shipping, customs and receiving processes.”
Carnival Maritime 3D Printing
Those six customers are: Carnival Maritime, Thome Ship Management, OSM Maritime Group, Berge Bulk, Executive Ship Management and Wilhelmsen Ship Management, with the latter being an obvious candidate for the early adopter program.
Between Carnival Maritime and Berge Bulk almost 200 ocean-going ships are represented. The other companies are services that provide a variety of functions to other shippers, meaning these six players represent a significant number of possible vessels able to receive a digital inventory treatment.
The attraction to this solution is very clear: ships cannot carry with them large quantities of spare parts, as they would largely be unused and take up cargo capacity that would otherwise be profitably used. On land, it is similarly challenging to maintain vast warehouses of spare parts, particularly for vessels made decades ago. Passenger ships last typically thirty years, and cargo ships even longer.
A better solution is to 3D print parts on demand based on a digital inventory of the likely parts required. This is the work of the partnership: identifying, digitizing and certifying production solutions. Then a ship can request a spare part from the library and it will be produced on demand, with hopefully quick shipping by air to the requesting vessel, or perhaps made ready for installation the next time the vessel stops by for service at a maintenance center.
Ivaldi Group Early Adopter Program
So far the partnership has implemented an early adopter program. If successful, they will no doubt open up for further clients in what could be a massively profitable business. All ships need spare parts, and if they can be provided more effectively and especially more cheaply, then the industry will gradually shift in that direction.
The next step I foresee is the actual installation of production solutions on board ships. These vessels are certainly large enough to accommodate such equipment, and if the operations and equipment are suitable simplified, it may eventually be possible to do so. If that happens, then ships could be making their own parts anytime they are required.