A landing craft belonging to the Royal Netherlands Navy

Entire Royal Netherlands Navy fleet undergoes 3D scanning for repairs

Image credit: Arctec 3D

The entire fleet of the Royal Netherlands Navy is being 3D scanned for maintenance purposes. This technology allows engineers to fix and reconstruct components for which no drawings or CAD files exist.

During the 1600s, the Dutch navy was among the most powerful in the world. Today, its dozens of vessels may be made from steel rather than oak, but they remain vulnerable to wear and tear in action.

Over the summer, Marinebedrijf Koninklijke Marine, the contractor responsible for maintenance of Dutch naval vessels, has been 3D scanning the entire fleet. This allows them to accelerate the process of identifying where damaged parts must be replaced, or outdated systems must be updated.

According to Marinebedrijf Koninklijke Marine staff, the technology has saved weeks of work which would otherwise be spent manually measuring the vessels and their components.

Dealing with older naval vessels for which there are no technical or digital illustrations on record can be a challenge. For instance, the “Green Drake” – an old naval ship which once belonged to the Queen of Holland – suffers from cracks and missing parts, but barely any drawings of it exist. Many vessels have no drawings or CAD files on record, often because they were commissioned before this was an industry standard and the suppliers of the components no longer exist.

“A lot of the time we don’t have drawings or 3D CAD files of the things that need to be repaired or where we need to make new parts for existing systems,” said Ben Jansen, CNC coordinator at Marinebedrijf Koninklijke Marine, to Naval Technology.

Under these conditions, Marinebedrijf Koninklijke Marine and other contractors would use a range of measuring tools to acquire information about these components, and then enter the information into a CAD programme.

In order to modify its approach to maintaining the vessels, the contractor partnered with a Luxembourg-based company, Artec 3D, which manufactures handheld 3D scanners designed for objects with complex geometry and textures.

Marinededrijf Koninklijke Marine used two structured light scanners, “Eva” and “Space Spider” to build 3D digital models of the vessels and their components. This technique works by projecting light in a grid pattern onto an object. The scanners detect the distortion of the grid from various angles and use this information to calculate the distances between different points on the object.

With many measurements, a detailed digital model can be built up of the object.

These models can be used to reverse engineer parts of the vessels which may be at risk of malfunctioning. 3D printing, 3D welding or other techniques may be used to recreate them. The team have been using this approach, for instance, to reverse-engineer moulds for seats in high-speed boats used for interception, which can crack due to the high impact of travel on the waves.

Components from vessels of the Royal Netherlands Navy

Arctec 3D

Image credit: Arctec 3D

Impellers of landing craft, which receive damage when drawing in sand and rocks in shallow water, also benefit from the technology. Following scanning of each impeller, a robotic welding system could be used to perform repair work in just the necessary areas.

According to Artec 3D, 3D scanning will become widespread in the future of such maintenance work.

“When 3D printing takes off fully we expect that all large ships will have 3D scanners and 3D printers on board so that parts can be 3D scanned and then 3D printed on the spot,” said Andrei Vakulenko, an Artec 3D executive, in a statement to Naval Technology.

“At the moment, quite a few small parts can be 3D printed in durable plastic and used with great success, but the real breakthrough will come when 3D printers can achieve the same level of quality in metal.”

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