Can you think of a low cost item that if not replaced can cause major damage?

Boat plug

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Well, once a bank asked me to visit a ship in a port to find out why it didn’t move. I arrived and found the Master and Chief Eng drunk, the engine room a black hole and some starving crew idling in the mess room. The proximate cause of defect was crew negligence, which underwriters apparently paid to correct. IMHO the cause was owners incompetence or criminal behavior. The ship was apparently later towed somewhere and laid up and the bank lost a lot of money. And the shipowner, after trying bribing me, went bankrupt.

Out here in little-boat yotting world, raw water impellers are a favorite subject of neglect (and no spares). I change mine religiously but I’ve discovered I’m in the minority. I suspect this may not be applicable to you guys in big iron.



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This past year I took a 6 week course (one night a week) at a local UNI on 3D printing. We even talked about the future and 4D printing. But this technology may have a 3D printer as part of any maintenance system tool in the shop.

My local hospital is now performing Knee Replacements with 3D printed Knee joints. After a scan of your knee the digital data is analyzed and corrections made.for the damages of time to you natural Knee… This then fed into the computer to print a replacement Knee to be implanted into the patient. Those who have received it are amazed with the simplicity of the procedure and ease of adapting to fully restored mobility.

I could see such a ships 3D parts inventory & printer facility containing a disk with files to print most of the smaller parts with channels via email to receive files should the disk not contain some of the more unique or upgraded files that are available…

4D would allow an otherwise 3D item to be printed in a flat form. When energized or activated, the item would begin to morph into the 3D form. If we go to some distant location such as Mars someday…this may be the way we carry a lot of goods compressed into a very small space.

Fortunately River Boats can usually limp into a repair facility somewhere along the line. Or even tie up to another Tow to get to a port. But at sea it would be different.

But no doubt about it, 3D & 4D will be a game changer.

If you knew that a part was made by 3d printing would you fit it on your machine

  1. Yes no doubt
  2. Only if I can not find a conventional one
  3. Only if it has Quality Assurance
  4. Only if the original equipment manufacturer approved it
  5. Other

Cases containing a comprehensive range of O rings are readily available and a range of O ring rubber and an O ring splicing kit complete with adhesive should be part of the essential consumables for any engine room.

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4 for me. This would also cover 3. I once sit in on a seminar provided by a welding supply company, Eutectic Castolin, where the speaker was talking about their highest quality rod for pad welding on river dredges. The stuff wouldn’t hold up to the task. But their plastics division Castolin, had plastics that could be used to pad the dredge and it would last and last. So don’t underestimate these modern plastics that could be used in 3D.

And remember since the early 60’s when the Mercury Astronaut’s went into space that their reentry was was made possible by a plastic
shield. So there is some tough plastics out there.

A cotter pin, piping, Boat plug, O-Rings etc can be 3d printed (under conditions) easily. My next question is where do you think they should be made.

  1. On board
  2. Near the port
  3. At a Regional facility
  4. At a Central facility
  5. Other

Indeed. What ship doesn’t carry a comprehensive assortment of o-rings, copper washers and cotter pins? A lot of these answers are related to poor maintenance practice more than esoteric component failure, but they’re entertaining nonetheless.

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Otherwise, any port facility or stores warehouse will have plenty of traditionally manafactured goods.

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I think two interesting questions are: 1) How will this capability be used by the beancounters to increase profits and 2) What effect will whatever they come up with have on safety?

My guess on 1) is that the capability will be used, as computer capabilities have in the past, to increase financial efficiency by running operations closer to the margin and 2) that the probability of minor accidents will decrease and the probability of major ones will increase (cf. Perrow’s “Normal Accident” theory)

It might be amusing to speculate on how this might happen.



I mean, any replacement part that is OEM approved I would generally have no problem with. So I would go with 4.

If a piece of equipment gets fucked up because we used off brand parts then we or the company are to blame.

Those answers missed where the OP said “so we do not keep it aboard.”

Reminds me of what an old salt once told me:
“The spares you carry determine the problems you won’t have”. I’ve endeavored to carry spares for everything, as I think he was right. So, if you carry a 3D printer that can make anything, you will have no problems.


sea dog metioned ‘O’ rings, that’s pretty good, I’ve made plenty but the factory ones are always better… If they fit !!! fuses, tire innertube core/cap … (that’s hard to replicate) !
lube system components, but the author said cheap things so there’s my contribution. I know we’ve all seen some incredible examples, i just can’t remember them right now but for sure something that causes all of us to think.

Do you (or somebody else) use lathe to make bolts or screws (if you are sort of them)?

The reason for this is that 3d printing is suggested for slow moving, high value items.

I will agree with you, but to have everithing they must invest in capital.

funny you should ask nautilos. The last shore side shop I worked in… the boss asked me to make a couple dozen 10-32 screws !!, yea, I made them but I’d been ‘‘out of the biz’’ for a few years so it wasn’t fun for my first day on the job but I think it was more of a test than a lack of screws. I had to single point the threads too, no dies !!
I spent years in Aerospace and have a lot of ‘stuff’ up there !