German scientists develop XL Additive Manufacturing machine for shipbuilding

May 22, 2023

As part of the XXL3DDruck, scientists from non-profit research institute Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH), Germany, and partners have developed a giant laser-assisted Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) machine, capable of producing steel components weighing several tons. The project has, thus far, produced parts of a ship gearbox housing with a mass up to three tons.

The XXL Additive Manufacturing with an installation space of 3 x 4.5 m, which is used as a prototype for research and development purposes only, is located at the marine gearbox manufacturer Reintjes in Hameln. It uses WAAM, a high-performance Additive Manufacturing process method for metals that achieves high mass throughput. The consortium can apply up to 3.2 kg of steel per hour with the machine.

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The process can reduce the use of both material and energy compared to conventional manufacturing methods; traditionally, individual moulds are made for the components of marine gearbox housings. This work step is eliminated in Additive Manufacturing. Material and weight can also be saved because components can be redesigned and constructed differently – with hollow walls, for example. Laser-assisted WAAM can also implement individual, component, and customer-specific design requirements.

XXL Additive Manufacturing conserves resources during production and later during the operation of the ship, as if less material is used, the ship has to accelerate less mass and thus also requires less fuel.

A part of a ship’s gearbox housing, which is currently still being manufactured, serves as an example. Through Additive Manufacturing, the project participants aim to reduce the weight of a ship gearbox housing by several tons. The long-term goal for production is to reduce manufacturing and procurement time as well as to save raw materials such as steel by reducing the amount of material used per housing.

The joint project XXL3DDruck: Energie- und ressourceneffiziente Herstellung großskaliger Produkte durch additive Fertigung am Beispiel von Schiffgetriebegehäusen was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. The project was managed by Reintjes GmbH, whilst the LZH was responsible for the development of the process technology. Eilhauer Maschinenbau GmbH, Langenhagen, took over the plant engineering of the Additive Manufacturing machine, with Tewiss – Technik und Wissen GmbH, Garbsen, was responsible for constructing the build head and controlling the machine. The IPH – Institut für Integrierte Produktion Hannover gemeinnützige GmbH developed an inline measurement technology for process monitoring.

Supported by the Lower Saxony Ministry of Economics, Transport, Construction and Digitalization, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. is dedicated to promoting applied research in the field of photonics and laser technology. Founded in 1986, almost 200 employees are now working at the LZH.

The LZH offers solutions to current and future challenges with its smart photonics. Along the process chain, natural scientists and engineers work together: from component development for specific laser systems or for quantum technologies to process developments for a wide variety of laser applications, for example for medical and agricultural technology or lightweight construction in the automotive sector. Eighteen successful spin-offs have emerged from the LZH to date.

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Extensive AM industry news coverage, as well as the following exclusive deep-dive articles:

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