Global maritime company Wilhelmsen has demonstrated its commitment to the adoption of additive manufacturing over the past several months. Last December, for instance, the company launched an early adopter program (EAP) for 3D printing spare parts for the maritime industry. Then, in February, it completed the first commercial delivery of 3D printed spare parts to a Berge Bulk ship. Now, Wilhelmsen has entered into a collaboration which will facilitate the delivery of 3D printed spare parts to its off-shore customers.
The maritime company has signed an agreement with Singapore-based F-drones, the only drone delivery provider currently authorized by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) to carry out drone deliveries Beyond-Visual-Line-of-Sight (BVLOS) to vessels at anchorage. The partnership will enable Wilhelmsen to expand its on-demand 3D printing service by using F-drones’ systems for last-mile delivery of printed parts.
“Exploring safe, reliable and inexpensive alternatives for last mile delivery of our 3D printed parts to our customers is key for us moving forward,” said Hakon Ellekjaer, Head of Venture, 3D Printing, Wilhelmsen. “F-drones is actively developing a solution and their ambitions are very much aligned with our own, to disrupt the existing supply chain and offer a service that is faster, cheaper and greener.”
F-drones is a young company developing drone systems specifically for deliveries to oil rigs and ships. The company is currently in the process of refining the next iteration of its proprietary electric drone system which is capable of carrying up to 5 kg of load over a distance of 50 km. Down the line, the company aims to develop a larger scale drone capable of delivering up to 100 kg to vessels based up to 100 km away. The company says the use of its drones for marine and off-shore logistics can save up to 80% in costs, time, manpower and carbon emissions compared to launch boats or helicopters.
“We are excited to be working together with Wilhelmsen’s 3D printing venture, which is at the forefront of commercializing on-demand manufacturing for the maritime industry,” added Yeshwanth Reddy, Co-founder of F-drones. “Its capability can provide a large variety of parts in different shapes, sizes, and materials. With our drones that can carry much bigger items over longer distances, we can catalyze the adoption of on-demand printing of parts for the maritime industry.”
Overall, the collaboration will enable Wilhelmsen to deliver 3D printed spare parts to vessels that are part of its EAP program. There are currently six customers signed up for the program, including Berge Bulk (which has already received 3D printed spare scupper plugs), Carnival Maritime, Thome Ship Management, OSM Maritime Group, Executive Ship Management and Wilhelmsen Ship Management. The aim of using additive manufacturing for the production of spare parts is to achieve faster lead times and lower supply chain costs. The on-demand nature of AM (in addition to shorter supply chain requirements) is also expected to have a positive environmental impact.