(Adapted from original story in 3dprint.com)

The project to create a database of key components is being undertaken by Marinebedrijf Koninklijke Marine, the organisation that is contracted to perform all maintenance and repairs for the Royal Netherlands Navy.

This means that they are responsible for the replacement of parts that have become worn or damaged as well as undertaking any modifications to already on-board components as required.

The idea behind the scanning operation is that it would greatly reduce the turnaround time when creating new parts. The CNC coordinator at Marinebedrijf Koninklijke Marine explained the benefits that come from using these scanners versus using traditional reverse engineering techniques:

“Using 3D scanning has saved us up to weeks of work – older processes were very intensive requiring multiple types of measuring tools and then replicating the drawing into a CAD program. Now, even when there is no 3D data or drawings for a part, we’re able to use the 3D scanner to create a 3D image of the object, and the scan is used to reverse engineer the object.

“That part is then replicated using 3D printing techniques, 3-5 axis milling or 3D welding. In most cases, parts for the ships are being reverse engineered or newly created; this is the case in older navy vessels where the suppliers of the components no longer exist.”

There are a number of quite easily understood benefits, as explained by Artec 3Ds Chief Business Development Officer Andrei Vakulenko:

“If you need to add anything to a military ship or plane…the fastest and most accurate way to get measurements would be to scan the areas. Quality control and inspection is another popular area, as parts such as propellers can be 3D scanned and checked regularly for quality assurance.

“3D scanning is also used for support; military ships are normally located quite far from their base, so in cases when technical support is needed, this is usually performed remotely. The area in question is often 3D scanned, so that the support engineer can better view the problem.”

The vision is that one day not only will it be possible to have a digital library of all of the parts of the Dutch navy, but also be able to 3D print any of those parts as needed. In Vakulenko’s words:

“When 3D printing takes off fully we expect that all large ships will have 3D scanners and 3D printers on board so that parts can be 3D scanned and then 3D printed on the spot. For large, sea-based vessels, this will really be an ideal solution – it will be far quicker than waiting for replacement parts to be sent from the repair base.

“At the moment, quite a few small parts can be 3D printed in durable plastic and used with great success, but the real breakthrough will come when 3D printers can achieve the same level of quality in metal.”

See full 3Dprint.com story here