ABS Approves 3D-Printed Parts After Six Month Trial on U.S. Tanker

This is interesting, and could be a game changer for obsolete equipment/defunct OEMs. Early on I was picturing smallish plastic pieces and I wondered what parts these additive manufacturing systems could really be used for, but according to the trials on Polar Tankers ship its serious parts: “a gear set and gear shaft for boiler fuel supply pump, flexible coupling used on a marine sanitation devices pump, and an ejector nozzle for a fresh water generator,

However, reading this and some of the referenced prior trials got me thinking…Is it really going to be that impactful for most equipment or critical equipment? Much of the equipment onboard is Class Equip or Type Approved equip. So it looks like any parts made on a 3D printer will have to have gone through a similar approval process (and be made on an approved printer, at an approved location). If I’m reading the ABS Guide for Additive Manufacturing correctly this means you can’t just make a random part in a pinch unless it’s already gone through a design/engineering/approval review.

That puts a huge limitation on the usefulness. Unless your company has a very robust shoreside engineering group to source of all the applicable CAD drawings, file the applications, perform the tests, get ABS witness, and build a massive database (that in 10-15yrs will be useless), I’m not sure how far this goes. In very limited circumstances would the cost be worth while for any but the largest of companies with cookie cutter fleets.

Unless…unless someone wants to seed-fund a company for me to start building a subscription database of Class Approved printable parts…

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Well that sounds right up Polar’s alley.

That’s kind of how I read it as well. I could also see exceptions based on what the part and machine was. For example, our emergency fire pump had a bearing seize. During the failure, the aluminum dust cover was destroyed. I turned one on the lathe and installed it until we received the official dust cover. Granted, the cover wasn’t a critical part, but it was on class equipment. Would a 3d printed one have worked in this case? Sure, with the added advantage that once the printer starts going it frees you up to work on other things.

I’m curious about how the printer would work on board a ship. The printer I’ve got at home runs off of belts for the X/Y travel but a lead screw for Z. Even with everything snug I still get a smidge of backlash in the stepper motors. Granted, it’s a cheap printer (Ender 3), but I can see the roll or vibration of the ship causing quality issues.

I can see some use with more common hardware. McMaster Carr has CAD files for much of the hardware on their website and Grainger is beginning to do the same. It would help in a pinch, but in reality I can have McMaster or Grainger parts waiting for me at the next port.

My impression was this was for parts to be made shoreside and shipped out, not for parts to be made onboard?

I believe you are correct. In one of the articles it says that the parts were provided to the tanker for use testing, so I don’t think the printer was onboard. Having spent many years on very stable vessels I hadn’t really considered the heave, roll, and print-head backlash issues.

I haven’t read that full guidance document, but I wonder if this ever does become prevalent whether dispensation would be provided for temporary emergency use under C/E’s authorization. Kind of like how you can never break the seal and adjust propulsion steam boiler relief valves, except that C/E can in case of emergency until you reach port (after contacting the OCIM if I remember my exam questions).

Have to get a printer onboard to take advanced bracket making to the next level!

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You will need to hold an STCW endorsement for Basic Marine Additive Manufacturing Systems Operator (BaMAMSo) before you make any brackets. Make sure the source code for that bracket originates from a USCG approved marine bracket design firm.

Making anything other than basic brackets will require coursework and certification as an Advanced Marine Additive Manufacturing Systems Operator (AdMAMSo) which requires a minimum of 500 hours watching an onboard printer make parts while holding the BaMAMSo certificate.

Making plastic action figures on a home desktop 3D printer may substitute for up to 250 hours of the required machine observation time.

A one week course on powder metallurgy and laser safety is a prerequisite for the basic certificate.


Also, in order to obtain AdMAMSo, you must have current PIC AdMAMSo verify knowledge through a lengthy series of completely unrelated task and discussion based assessments.

I don’t want to interrupt your enlightening discussion on bracketry, something I think we all hold near and dear…(I’ve been pushing for the academies to offer Underwater Bracket Weaving for some time, to no avail.)

Just wanted to say that article you posted is refreshing that a quasi regulatory body is actually recognizing that tech often out paces rules and is trying to get on top of it. Now if only the USCG would do the same with license curriculums and exams…