thyssenkrupp Marine Systems has announced plans to ramp up its use of 3D printing for the production of submarine components. At this stage, the path to series production for submarine parts is largely laid: quality and safety approvals have been granted and the required technology and expertise are ready, thanks to the acquisition of the thyssenkrupp TechCenter Additive Manufacturing.
The plan is to integrate additive manufacturing into the company’s operations at Kiel Fjord, an inlet of the Baltic Sea on the eastern side of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, where AM will be used to manufacture submarine components on-demand and with more flexibility. thyssenkrupp Marine Systems expects the transition—of moving its TechCenter Additive Manufacturing from Mülheim an der Ruhr to Kiel Fjord—to be complete by June of this year.
“3D printing opens up completely new potentials for us,” said Dr. Luis Alejandro Orellano, COO of thyssenkrupp Marine Systems. “In the design engineering, we no longer have to consider the limits of conventional manufacturing processes everywhere. In this way, we give our customers more freedom in the design of the boats. At the same time, we can produce components faster and more cost-effectively. Bringing the necessary expertise and equipment to serve us in Kiel is the prerequisite for being able to make smaller batches quickly and easily in series in the future.”
Like in other industries, additive manufacturing can be employed to create optimized components for submarines, improving performance while reducing critical properties like weight. For instance, thyssenkrupp Marine Systems reported that a hydraulic block for a submarine which traditionally weighed 14 kg, was redesigned for AM and now weighs only 2.1 kg thanks to part consolidation and AM design features.
Ultimately, thyssenkrupp Marine Systems will utilize 3D printing to manufacture small-batch parts for submarines at its Kiel shipyard, including components for new submarine builds and spare parts. Last November, the company announced a massive investment in its Kiel facility with the goal of transforming the shipyard into an international competence centre for conventional submarine construction.
In August 2019, thyssenkrupp announced that its TechCenter Additive Manufacturing had been granted the world’s first DNV GL certification for 3D printed maritime parts. This landmark approval guarantees the material properties of 3D printed components in accordance with standards issued by independent testing bodies.