Singapore has always been friendly to new technologies, and now they are going all out when it comes to embracing advanced manufacturing technology. This week, a quadripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by Sembcorp Marine, DNV GL, A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), and the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC) to focus on aiding the transformation of the country’s offshore and marine (O&M) sector. The agreement itself focuses on three key areas: fabrication of large-scale ship structures through 3D printing, close-up ship inspections utilizing drones, and optimization of ship designs and operations using digital twin simulations.
Managing Director of NAMIC Dr. Ho Chaw Sing described the efforts: “Over the last several months, we have engaged with stakeholders in various strategic industry verticals in our push to industrialize AM technologies. We are delighted to enter into this collaboration partnership with Sembcorp Marine, DNV GL and SIMTech, supporting and contributing towards the transformation of the Marine Offshore/Oil and Gas industry, a key strategic sector for Singapore.”
The first leg of this 3D tech triad, 3D fabrication of large-scale components, is set to begin as early as the end of 2017. Specifically, the program will utilize Laser Aided Additive Manufacturing (LAAM). This particular form of 3D manufacturing creates objects by using a laser heat source to solidify material deposited layer by layer and has the advantage of being able to create large scale objects at a high speed with a wide variety of materials. The benefits of this technology have been embraced and there are grand visions for its application in O&M as explained by Dr. Lim Ser Yong, the Executive Direction of SIMTech: “Additive Manufacturing is a key technology enabler under Singapore’s Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME) strategy. This collaboration leverages SIMTech’s Free Form Large Format Laser Aided Additive Manufacturing capabilities, to support the offshore and marine industry, by improving the functional integrity, cost-effectiveness and responsiveness. We look forward to a fruitful collaboration.”
The first phase of implementation for the LAAM involves feasibility testing in terms of reliability and cost competitiveness. There has been a great deal of interest around the world in understanding the ways in which 3D printing can help the marine industry produce large scale parts, such as that which is underway with the Dutch Royal Navy. Another area in which 3D technology is advancing the marine sector is through the production of drones. The use of these drones is the second leg proposed in the MOU. For this DNV GL will receive assistance from Sembcorp Marine in developing and integrating drone usage into its ship inspection processes.
Drones are a critical component in improving ship inspections. Older inspection processes posed risks to inspectors as the structures are offshore and relatively difficult to access. In addition, there is expected to be a significant cost reduction in the performance of surveys. This could potentially mean that ships and ship components will be inspected more regularly, leading to a reduction in component failures and increasing preventative measures that could stave off disasters.
The final leg in this tech tripod is digital twinning, which integrates multiple data sources into the creation of a virtual image of a ship or other shipping component. It can be both maintained throughout the life cycle of the ship and be accessed at any time. This type of creation will facilitate the pre-commissioning of a vessel for testing which, in turn, will help reduce costs through error screening and prevention of the after-the-fact fixes necessitated. The digital twin phase is set to begin in the first part of 2018.
Each of these projects will go through their test phases at Sembcorp Marine’s Tuas Boulevard Yard, its flagship shipyard which has been in operation since 2013. The shipyard boasts six drydocks capable of serving mega-size vessels as well as a further drydock dedicated to offshore structure construction and repair. In addition, Sembcorp has a 120,000 sq m on site steel fabrication facility.
President and CEO of Sembcorp Wong Weng Sun expressed his company’s enthusiasm for the partnership: “Singapore’s competitiveness in the global O&M market depends on our continued ability to introduce innovations that deliver faster, safer and more reliable outcomes. We are confident that Additive Manufacturing, Drone and Digital Twin technologies will unlock exciting possibilities for us to stay ahead of the curve.”
Singapore is neither the first nor the last country to recognize the enormous potential of advanced 3D technologies for these enormous vessels. However, the scale of this initiative and the number of agencies involved makes this a particularly interesting project and could set the tone for future undertakings in other nations.
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