3D-printed propeller blade opens the way to eco-friendly shipping

Researchers have built the world’s first hollow propeller blade – a promising step towards improved ship performance and low environmental impact.

To make the European maritime industry more competitive globally, innovative materials are needed to improve ships’ performance and make them more environment friendly. In recent years, other industries have made a lot of progress in this area. However, the maritime sector is lagging behind in the adoption of advanced materials that have a smaller environmental footprint and are less costly and easier to maintain.

Doing its part to propel the maritime industry forward, the EU-funded project RAMSSES has taken advantage of new lightweight, high-performance materials to develop the first demonstrator of hollow propeller blades. This innovative outcome was achieved using additive manufacturing (AM) – a process in which 3D objects are built by adding layer upon layer of material. In an online news item published in the journal ‘Marine Propulsion & Auxiliary Machinery’, propeller package manager Patrice Vinot of project partner Naval Group says: “Although additive manufacturing is increasingly present in industry, the programming and design of complex parts, such as propeller blades for ships, represents a considerable challenge.” The project team’s aim is to produce propellers that enhance the operational capabilities of ships.

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