Image: The world’s first 3D printed propeller
RAMLAB at the Port of Rotterdam wowed the world when they presented the very first metal printed certified propeller. That milestone silenced doubters and signaled the arrival of 3D printing as a viable challenger to traditional marine parts manufacturing.
3D printing applies to both subtractive and additive manufacturing, either removing or depositing material to form objects. RAMLAB was established in 2016 to pursue a vision of printing metal parts on demand using wire arc additive manufacturing, or WAAM. In 2017, after only one year of operation, they produced the world’s first 3D printed propeller, made up of 298 layers of nickel-aluminum-bronze alloy.
“That got a lot of attention,” says Vincent Wegener, managing director at RAMLAB. “At the very least it was a myth-buster. Some claimed that we would never manage to produce a certified propeller at all, and then we did it in our second year. That opened a lot of eyes, and a lot of minds.”
Conceived chiefly as an R&D initiative, RAMLAB’s aim is to move additive manufacturing from R&D into commercial production. “The ultimate goal is to achieve full profitability. We have been investing in getting things working. Now we need to identify the parts that are relevant to print,” says Wegener.