The Port of Rotterdam was once the busiest port in the world—not just Europe. Now, it is striving to become the smartest port in the world. One way it’s looking to achieve that is by investing in new initiatives such as the Rotterdam Additive Manufacturing Lab (RAMLAB) that bring new technology and innovation to the maritime industry. In this video, RAMLAB Managing Director Vincent Wegener describes how RAMLAB plans to use additive manufacturing to ensure that industrial spare parts are always available—on demand.
I’m Vincent Wegener. I’m the managing director of RAMLAB. RAMLAB stands for Rotterdam Additive Manufacturing Lab, and we are located in the Port of Rotterdam.
The Port of Rotterdam used to be the largest port in the world, and the Port of Rotterdam Authority is now pursuing the strategy of becoming the smartest port in the world.
The Port Authority is investing in all kinds of innovative initiatives, so RAMLAB is one of those initiatives.
We did a study in 2015 together with all kinds of offshore maritime companies, and from that pilot, the Port of Rotterdam, they asked us, “Okay, how can we continue this pilot after this is finished?”
We came up with the plan to set up the lab, and they approved, and we started last year.
We are trying to solve several problems. One is, the conventional way of manufacturing is most of the large parts are casted, and when you cast the part, you have to make the mold; you have to post process it; you have to transport it. It can take up to six months to a year before you get your part.
For many of the end users, they are partners of RAMLAB; they would like to see that shortened. So if you can make a part in a few days, a lot of companies will be helped with that.
There are a lot of warehouses in the Port of Rotterdam. There are studies that have been done that 70 percent is never used. Never. Spare parts will never be used, so it’s a waste of a lot of resources. So from that perspective, they’re saying, “Well, how can we disrupt ourselves? How can we go to a world where you have a digital warehouse, or you no longer have these physical warehouses?”
We are actively looking for new business models as a Port of Rotterdam Authority. That’s the starting point for setting up the lab.
The process we are using is wire arc additive manufacturing. Basically, it’s welding but then 3D welding. It took about 240 hours to make the propellers. So, 10 days, full time, nonstop.
The maritime and offshore world, they have strict rules and certification. So the challenge for us was not only to make a part but also to certify it. If you cannot get the certifying partner, like BV or Lloyd’s on board, then it’s no use to start making parts. So we involved them from the start.
My personal drive is, I love tech. I love innovation, and the thing is, you always see it’s out there somewhere on the other side of the world—they’re doing this. Why not here in Rotterdam? That was my personal drive. Why shouldn’t we do this here? You can achieve a lot with a small team. It’s the typical path from the nonbelievers to believers.