Singapore explores maritime applications of 3D printing technology

Singapore is exploring the use of 3D printing technology in the maritime sector. Credit: Shutterstock
Singapore is exploring the use of 3D printing technology in the maritime sector. Credit: Shutterstock

In line with its aim to apply technology to improve the maritime sector, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is exploring maritime applications for 3D printing technology, also known as additive manufacturing (AM).

MPA signed two AM-related memoranda of understanding (MOU) at the 6th Global AM Summit held in Singapore this week.

The first MOU was with port operator PSA Corporation, the National Additive Innovation Cluster (NAMIC), and local 3D printing firm 3D MetalForge to establish the world’s first on-site AM production for port applications.

The AM rapid production facility will be located at Pasir Panjang Terminal, where PSA is testing port technologies for current and future terminals. It will have state-of-the-art printers capable of producing AM parts for port equipment, and will use a specialised maritime digital cloud supported by blockchain technology for more secure file transfers.

Singapore’s port operations will eventually move to the Tuas mega port, scheduled to come online in 2040, which will double the country’s handling capacity to 65 million teu.

The AM facility’s location also leverages PSA’s parts supplier base and facility operations to support just-in-time inventory. This move towards digitised inventories reduces the need to hold excess inventory, thus lowering storage costs while shortening turnaround time from weeks to days.

PSA has plans to expand the scope of these services to the wider maritime industry, including shipowners, to help build its business adjacencies.

Highlighting the role of 3D printing in industry transformation, Ong Kim Pong, regional CEO Southeast Asia of PSA International said, “Within our maritime sector, we foresee widespread adoption within the immediate horizon. I am heartened that PSA, alongside MPA, NAMIC, and 3D MetalForge, can be pioneers in developing this technology for use in our industry. Co-creating new innovations including digitising inventories will create opportunities to raise maritime productivity to the next level.”

The second MOU was signed with NAMIC and the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) to collaborate on an AM joint industry programme for marine parts.

The programme is focused on establishing the commercial viability, technical feasibility, and regulatory compliance behind the use of AM technology for marine parts. The aim is to develop a comprehensive ecosystem of partners from across the value chain.

This collaboration will strengthen Singapore’s role as a hub for ship supplies and provide the maritime industry with clarity on the challenges, opportunities, and potential test cases for deploying AM for marine parts, the groups said in a joint statement.

“This MOU represents SSA’s continuous efforts in embracing new technologies to enhance productivity and efficiency in the maritime industry,” Steen Brodsgaard Lund, councillor and chairman of SSA’s technical committee, said.

“Digitalisation with on-demand manufacturing will continue to accelerate,” Ho Chaw Sing, NAMIC’s managing director, said, adding that the collaboration leverages on Singapore’s ecosystem for robotics and blockchain technology.

“As a leading maritime hub, Singapore firmly believes that the maritime industry should embrace new technologies such as AM,” MPA’s CEO, Andrew Tan said. “The digitalisation of the maritime sector in all its aspects is not a matter of how, but when.”