First hollow propeller blade demonstrator

Centrale Nantes and Naval Group are now using additive manufacturing to design large parts such as this propeller blade Centrale Nantes and Naval Group are now using additive manufacturing to design large parts such as this propeller blade

Naval Group and Centrale Nantes have printed the first demonstrator of hollow propeller blades by metal additive manufacturing as part of the European H2020 project, RAMSSES.

Funded by the European Commission, this collaborative programme aims to reduce the environmental impact of ships. Centrale Nantes and Naval Group are taking the lead within this project on the production of innovative propeller demonstrators to improve operational capabilities.

In order to improve vessel propulsion, Centrale Nantes and Naval Group are using additive manufacturing to design large parts. Implementing the WAAM (Wire Arc for Additive Manufacturing) process, allows for the printing of large parts and paves the way for the production of propellers with more complex geometry.

The one-third scale hollow blade demonstrator, representative of a container ship propeller, was printed in stainless steel in under one hundred hours, weighing in at about 300kg. The teams involved believe that weight reductions of over 40% will be achievable compared to conventional processes.

Sirehna, a Centrale Nantes spin-off and subsidiary of Naval Group, is piloting the blade design in order to improve propeller energy efficiency and reduce their environmental impact. Sirehna's work has led to an overall optimization of blades in terms of efficiency and endurance, but also a significant reduction in radiated noise and vibrations. Reducing the environmental footprint linked to propulsion, as demonstrated in the H2020 RAMSSES project case study, is a challenge for all types of vessels.

Naval Group and Sirehna have been able to count on the exceptional technical resources and extensive knowledge offered by Centrale Nantes. The school’s expertise in trajectory generation and additive manufacturing has been needed to produce the blade. This long-standing co-operation, which took on a formal footing in 2016 with the creation of a joint laboratory (JMLT), feeds through to control over the entire digital chain from design to mechanical dimensioning and hydrodynamics to manufacturing, and will lead to the production of a complete propeller.

By Jake Frith

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