Maersk started to experiment with an idea in 2014 and some executives believe it will become widespread in the industry in a few years.
“By 2030 the engine room will feature a 3D printer capable of building the most complex engine parts,” Monika Krogulska, head of SE Asia and China for VesselsValue said at the Shipserv Smart Procurement conference.
Shane Lee, sales manager for RS Components noted that the use of 3D printing was already widespread in other industries and could help the marine industry.
3D printing could be used to make small components such as bearings and screws ship board rather having to carry inventory or wait to till arriving in the next port for spare parts.
Lee said that in the oil and gas sector 3D printing was being used for manufacturing prototypes of components, and as well as one-off or small run parts.
He said that you did not need much space to install a 3D printer on a vessel, however, this was also a limiting factor in terms of the size of parts that could be manufactured.
Currently 3D printing uses filament, but there are experiments with wire to make steel components, however, such technology would unlikely to be suitable for use in a space like an engine room.
The concern for the ship supplier industry is obviously if ship’s crew can 3D print spare parts onboard they will stop buying from suppliers.