7 technological advances that empower the shipbuilding industry

Modern advances in technology has fueled many recent innovations in varied fields. In every aspect of life, the progress in technology has helped man make headway. The making of ships and the technology behind it also has been going ahead in full thrust in step with the progress in technology. From better construction techniques, enhanced by 3D printing, modern robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality to making better ships keeping environmental regulations and sustainability in view, modern shipbuilding and the maritime industry as a whole is in for a makeover with recent advances in technology made possible by continuous research and development. In this article, we talk on the most innovative technologies that have a major hand in the transformation of modern shipbuilding.

  1. The magic of 3D printing technology

3D printing is the technology of printing real objects in three dimensions from a digital copy or framework. The idea behind 3D printing is to cut the framework of the desired object into thin slices and reassemble these slices into a real object by an additive process incorporating many layers of the object in question in a particular sequence. Even the most complex structures can be recreated and built with efficient 3D printers.

3D printing is a commercially viable technique. The most recent use of 3D printing is in marine engineering and shipbuilding. Many shipbuilding companies are using CAD drawings of ship model to create 3D printed ship parts. A ship is a complex structure with advanced geometry involved which can be simplified with recent 3D printing technology. The transverse section of the hull, the horizontal planes of the deck, the rotor and radars of the ship need the most updated 3D printers in use. As 3 D printers are easy to use and affordable, the convenience factor means it can be used for repairing the ships instead of waiting for high quality machine parts off the factories. Powder-bed extrusion has emerged as the most useful technique for maritime shipbuilding, as this method can produce machine parts with high accuracy and precision. With the ease of 3D printing, the additional costs of storing of spare parts for ships can be factored out of the budget by producing them on any location. 3D printing also makes more lightweight and efficient machinery as compared to the traditional casting process. Breakdowns now can be addressed on board instead of waiting to anchor at a ship repair factory for a long time. For larger machine parts though and heavier repairs, the ship has to stop at the nearest port. The manufacturing of parts needs storage facilities for raw materials and alloys used in the process which can incur costs and labour. 3D printing as a technique still needs further research and development to be fully implemented in the manufacturing process.

  • The intelligence of Shipbuilding Robotics

Robotics and robots have been evolving as helpers of humankind for some time now. In this chain, the use of robotics in shipbuilding has helped workers move away from dangerous heavy-duty tasks. The shortage of skilled labor is also one of the reasons to look upon robotics. Heavy effort work like lifting and moving heavy machinery has the use of robots. Work of expertise like welding and assembling also can be done by robots. With the extensive use of robotics in shipbuilding and technology like sensor systems and AI has developed in complexity. The shipbuilding industry is gradually customizing automation tech to optimize its use for shipyards. the overall advancement of worldwide robotics technology is additionally resulting in design and interface improvements so that automated systems can be safely operated with little to no expertise, further encouraging the spread of robots to shipyards of varied sizes and levels. Shipbuilding might broadly lean towards massive industrial systems but industry research is additionally pushing for smaller, smarter robots which will make human workers’ jobs easier and safer by accessing hazardous, hard-to-reach areas.

  • The futuristic plans of Ballast free ship design – 

The ballast water is taken from coastal port areas (source point) and transported inside the ship to the subsequent port of call(destination point) where it’s going to be discharged, alongside all the surviving organisms. This way, the ballast water may introduce organisms into the port of discharge which don’t naturally belong there. These introduced species are called exotic species. Populations of exotic species may grow very quickly within the absence of natural predators. during this case, they’re called ‘invasive’. However, most species can’t survive within the new surroundings – temperature, salinity being but optimal. Thus, only a couple of species are ‘successful invaders’.  Aquatic invasions are considered the second greatest threat to global biodiversity after habitat loss, are virtually irreversible, and increase in severity over time. If that’s the case, then one can’t even imagine the damage, caused by the transfer of three to five billion plenty of ballast water annually.

The idea of Ballast free Ship design has the potential to mitigate the dangers of ballast water disposal which causes release of non-native species and presents several ecological problems.

Ballast free design features a network of longitudinal pipes from bow to stern in the ship’s hull causing a regular flow of local seawater thus, preventing the transfer of contaminated water or water from one ecosystem to a different one. When a ship moves forward regions of increased water pressure is produced near its bow and reduced water pressure at its stern. This pressure gradient is used to drive water through a group of below-waterline corridor without the need for pumps. Although this results in a small increase in the resistance of the ship, the discharge of the trunk flow into the upper half the propeller disc tends to smooth the inflow to the propeller, allowing the propeller to work at higher efficiency and thus catch up on the added resistance to some extent. Though this technology is still in the experimental and developmental stage, on successful testing, the ballast-free design can be a long term n0rm of shipbuilding.

  • The energy efficiency of LNG – fueled ships

LNG or compressed liquified natural gas which can be used as a fuel and can be used as a ship fuel in many models. The heating value of LNG and its image as a cleaner fuel is why it is being considered as an alternate fuel. Condensed Natural Gas (LNG) flood in ubiquity as a substitute fuel for ships is noticeable these days due to its ecological sustainability. That is the reason the market of LNG powered boat motors is rising and its possibilities are high also. In the LNG motors, CO2 outflow is decreased by 20-25% when contrasted with diesel motors, NOX emanations are cut by practically 92%, while SOX and particulate discharges are nearly wiped out. Besides, the new age transport motors are unequivocally needed to conform to the TIER 3 limitations. Other than being an earth agreeable fuel, LNG is additionally less expensive than diesel, which encourages the boat to spare a lot of cash after some time.

  • Solar and wind power for ships

In a drastically changing world where energy sources are rapidly exhausting, switching to renewable energy has been humanity’s main motto. Like many fields of life, renewable energy can transform the way shipping fleet is done at many levels and in varying magnitudes, including international and domestic transport shipments, people, and services; fishing; tourism, and other maritime pursuits. Renewable power applications in ships of all sizes include options for primary, hybrid, andauxiliary propulsion, also as onboard and shore-side energy use. The transition to a clean energy shipping sector requires a big shift from fossil fuel-powered transport to energy-efficient designs and renewable energy technologies like solar and wind-powered ships. Solar or wind-powered ships are not commercially produced today but can’t be ruled out of future use with more technical advancements. Recently, many technologies have come which support massive ships to cut back fuel consumption by utilizing solar panels or rigid sails. At this stage, solar energy alone is unable to supply the energy required for propulsion on large ships. However, it will be a crucial alternative source of power for onboard electrical systems thereby helping to scale back fuel consumption and obnoxious gas emissions.

The challenge for system designers is to develop an answer for ships that will tap into the facility of the wind and sun – yet be cost-effective and not endanger the crew or vessel. Unlike land-based renewable energy solutions like solar or wind farms, the area or space available on ships for installing wind & solar energy systems is sort of limited. Taking this under consideration it might appear advantageous to develop a system that will use both wind and solar energy as energy sources plus harness this energy via an equivalent system.

  • Buckypaper – the featherweight material

Buckypaper is a thin sheet created from an arrangement of carbon nanotubes (CNT). Each CNT is 50,000 thinner than the human air. Comparing with the standard shipbuilding material (i.e. steel), buckypaper is 1/10th the load of steel but potentially 500 times stronger in strength and a couple of times harder than diamond when its sheets are compiled to create a composite. When its sheets are stacked together, the resulting material, similar to the carbon of a typewriter , is 10 times lighter as compared to steel, though 250 times powerful. Different from conventional composites, it conducts electricity like silicon and scatters heat like steel. due to this structure, the capacity of carrying current is extremely high. It also has exceptional low optical reflectivity and thermal conductivity. This material also has safety qualities that make it a useful product for shipbuilding because it is fire and warmth resistant. Tests have shown that covering structures with a skinny layer of buckypaper significantly improves its fire resistance, which is thanks to the efficient reflection of warmth by the dense, compact layers of carbon nanotubes. The ship built from this featherweight material would require less fuel, hence increasing energy efficiency of the ship. it’s corrosion-resistant and flame retardant which could prevent fire on ships. Research has already been initiated for the utilization of buckypaper as a construction material of a future airplane. So, an identical trend can’t be ruled call at the case of shipbuilding.

  • Electric propulsion technology- the power of future

Integrated electric propulsion technology is apower technology wherein gas turbines generate three-phase electricity to run electric motors which turn propellers or water jets. The system uses electric transmission rather than mechanical transmission which eliminates the need for clutches and reduces the use of gearboxes.
Some of the benefits of using this technology are freedom of placement of engine, less noisy ships, reduction in weight, and volume. Reducing noise is especially important to naval vessels wanting to avoid detection and for cruise ships seeking to gift passengers with a pleasing voyage, but is of less benefit to cargo ships.
New technology is changing the scenario of ship building and marine engineering slowly and we are witnessing the advent of cleaner, faster and smarter ships.