NauticExpo e-Magazine - #7 - 3D Printing, a Powerful Tool - NauticExpo e-Magazine

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3D Printing, a Powerful Tool

Already in frequent use in many other industries, additive manufacturing, or 3D printing has begun making inroads into the nautical sector, constituting a powerful tool for designing and building components.


In this edition, you’ll travel to the port of Rotterdam to discover RAMLAB, the first field lab equipped with 3D metal printers to serve maritime and port-related industries. While the America’s Cup has long been a laboratory for new technological developments, 3D printing is becoming another important weapon in the combat for “the Auld Mug.”


We also spoke to Marc Van Peteghem, co-founder of the French naval architecture firm VPLP, one of the world’s most highly regarded in offshore racing today. Their latest triumph—designing the foiling monohull which sailed to victory in the latest Vendée Globe. As a bonus, you’ll get a taste of some of the most impressive yachts displayed under the Florida sun during the Miami International Boat Show earlier this month.

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We are carrying out research on what 3D metal printing can mean for the port.
The Port of Rotterdam's 3D metal printers (Courtesy of RAMLAB)

Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port, handling 465 million tons of cargo annually. Its appropriately named Innovation Dock is now home to RAMLAB, the first field lab equipped with 3D metal printers to serve maritime and port-related industries.   RAMLAB—Rotterdam Additive Manufacturing Laboratory—carries out research and...

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3D printing is currently used in America’s Cup yachts due to the fierce attention to weight, materials and manufacturing processes.
Artemis Racing (Courtesy of Sander van der Borch)


Additive manufacturing turns into a powerful tool for designing and building components. America’s Cup teams lead the way, as an Artemis engineer explained to us.


The America’s Cup has always been a laboratory for new technological developments, even more so since the foiling catamaran revolution. Nowhere else in sailing will budgets allow entire teams of engineers and designers to work for years, optimizing every little part and every process involved in designing and building a boat.

Now, 3D printing has arrived on the scene, rapidly growing into an important weapon in the combat for “the Auld Mug,” the America’s Cup trophy. For insiders, additive manufacturing is the more precise term, indicating how the process really works: 3D design files are sent to a production facility where the item is produced automatically according to specifications in the file. Specialized machines are able to add micro-layers of material, one on top of the other, fusing them together with lasers until the final piece emerges.

Precision Components

For quite some time, materials have been limited to plastics and composites, but now even metals can be processed using additive manufacturing. Fine metal powder is added in layers of about 0.05 millimeters.


Metal 3D printed manifold (Courtesy of Renishaw)

This new manufacturing method makes it possible to produce components with great accuracy and with specifications impossible with normal metal manufacturing. Production can be rapid and limited to only one item, if that’s what’s needed.

Hydraulics are core components on America’s Cup catamarans, and strong, lightweight efficient parts are in high demand. Additive manufacturing is well suited to exactly that.

Time is also a very important parameter for any professional sailing team. With additive manufacturing, designers can create a part ready for testing on the water the next day.

Some America’s Cup teams report cost savings, while others experience higher costs, probably depending on how the technology is implemented.

According to Artemis, 3D printing allows to design very efficient components and structures (Courtesy of Artemis)

According to Artemis, 3D printing allows to design very efficient components and structures (Courtesy of Artemis)

Faster Turn-Around

America’s Cup teams are often reluctant to reveal what happens behind the scenes. However, hydraulics and controls manager Jonathan Nicholls from the Artemis engineering team shed some light on how they work with this new tool.

We print brackets, custom electronics housings and user interface components.

“Three dimensional printing is currently used in America’s Cup yachts due to the fierce attention to weight, materials and manufacturing processes,” he told NauticExpo e-mag.

“It allows engineers to design very efficient components and structures. The advantages of 3D printing are the same for us as they are for everyone—more open design space, more efficient designs, faster turn-around.”

“Currently we print brackets, custom electronics housings and user interface components like buttons, switches or levers. We save a lot of weight and manufacturing time with these parts; they’ve been very good performers. We also use 3D printing for mock-up components, while the real components are being manufactured,” he added.

Artemis Racing in Bermuda (Courtesy of Sander van den Borch)

What About Limitations?

Nicholls explained: “This is a relatively new technology. Three dimensional printing has a small experience and knowledge base in this sector, which of course slows adoption compared to more conventional methods. [Lack of] familiarity with the technology is a limitation, as it is with any new technology. I see this being a big area of focus for the next America’s Cup cycle.”

Lack of familiarity with the technology is a limitation. Cost is definitely higher as well.

Cost is definitely higher as well. “Complex components like hydraulic manifolds can be twice the cost because of the combined cost of producing the 3D part and then the post machining, which can be as much as machining the entire component itself. Understanding the cost benefit of when to use 3D printing for these components is definitely something we could become more familiar with.”

Nicholls explained that their goal is to build a boat that will win the America’s Cup. A secondary goal is to keep pressing to learn and apply new technologies like 3D printing. “It keeps us relevant and contributing back to the greater engineering community. I’m sure every America’s Cup yacht moving forward will have more 3D printed content than its predecessors. The extent to which 3D printing is used lies in us investing time in understanding how to fully exploit it. The teams that do invest in 3D printing will have a distinct competitive advantage, no doubt!”

Artemis Racing team (Courtesy of Sander van der Borch)

Artemis Racing team (Courtesy of Sander van der Borch)

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Marc Van Peteghem (Courtesy of TEDx)

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  • Overview of MIBS (Courtesy of Miami International Boat)

    The Progressive Insurance Miami International Boat Show (MIBS), February 16-20, introduced a “VIP Experience” and put 100 luxury yachts on display.

    A MIBS spokeswoman told NauticExpo e-magazine, “To accommodate the increasing demand for large boats, we are showcasing a broader selection of yachts than ever before.”

    The show’s new VIP Experience adds enhanced, upscale treatment for VIP guests that includes exclusive access to a private lounge aboard a 111-foot luxury yacht amidst some of the biggest boats and yachts ever displayed at the show.

    “One of the standout trends in 2016 was for larger yachts and large cruising boats, a trend expected to continue through 2017 as consumer confidence remains strong and manufacturers continue to bring luxury to the water,” the spokeswoman added.


    The Azimut Yachts Grande 95RPH, the most expensive at MIBS (Courtesy of Azimut Yachts)

    MIBS showcased dozens of debuts from some of the world’s leading brands. To host the larger vessels, it moved to a new venue on Virginia Key with a deepwater basin. These included:

    • Azimut Yachts 28.62 m Grande 95RPH offers an elegant design by Stefano Righini, a top speed of 28 knots, and five staterooms. At $11 million, it is the most expensive at the show.
    • Marlow Marine 97 Explorer costs $5.4 million, has a top speed of 29 knots and is one of the largest at the show. The manufacturer describes it as “the fastest, best-performing raised pilothouse offshore yacht in the world with all the comforts of home, including a master suite and private deck, grand saloon, formal dining room, and several guest cabins.”

    The Montecarlo 6 (Courtesy of Beneteau)

    • Marquis Yachts 660 Sport Yacht has three staterooms, a master suite, VIP and guest accommodations, an open saloon, and a list price of $2.45 million.
    • Viking Yachts 52 Open, just a little less expensive at $2.1 million, is an open model designed for cruising, sport fishing and diving. It features a wraparound windshield for both weather protection and excellent visibility from the helm.
    • Beneteau Monte Carlo 6 won Boat of the Year in the Flybridge up to 60 ft category at the Motor Boat Awards. Its style and onboard facilities have enabled this $1.48 million vessel to carve a niche in its price range.
    • Riviera 4800 Sport Yacht comes with two staterooms, alfresco seating in the cockpit, foredeck lounge, tender garage, spacious saloon and an atrium lounge, all for $1.1 million.

    130 Sailing Vessels

    The Strictly Sail Miami section at the Bayside Miamarina features 130 sailing vessels, including two that are definitely in the large, luxury class:

    • Oyster 745, 22.74 m in length, is the largest sailing yacht at MIBS and can carry 278.8 m2 of canvas. In addition to Oyster’s striking, contemporary styling, it features a spacious deck saloon.
    • Lagoon Seventy 7, the largest catamaran at the show, has a saloon, owner’s stateroom and several other cabins with en-suite heads, “all designed with luxury and wealth in mind.”

    Read more about different kinds of yachts here.

    The Lagoon Seventy 7 (Courtesy of Miami International Boat)

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    i-Bridge, four elements with integrated functions (Courtesy of Team Italia)


    Team Italia’s new integrated bridge allows captains and crew to easily monitor and operate machinery and systems.


    As yachts become larger and larger, owners and captains spend more time working with shipyard technical departments, sub-contractors and interior designers to integrate all sorts of equipment. Thanks to new technologies and software, integrated bridges are more sophisticated and user-friendly than earlier generations.

    The i-Bridge Four Islands by Team Italia is a noteworthy example of this trend. NauticExpo e-mag had the chance to see the clean, attractive layout of the prototype and talk to company CEO Massimo Minnella. “Compared to our previous integrated bridges, we designed the Four Islands with new layouts and functions according to the requests of captains and yacht owners to further enhance integration among all equipment on board.”

    Minnella added, “We created an integrated bridge with multifunction workstations for increased efficiency and flexible installation.”

    Tailored Integrated Bridge

    The modules have been designed to adapt to every type of yacht and wheelhouse. They include four elements, or islands with integrated functions: a central bridge console, two internal wings and a planning station. The central console unites all navigational data, as well as information from and controls for engines, generators and other main machinery.


    i-Bridge Four Islands ergonomia (Courtesy of Team Italia)

    “All functions are incorporated into sleek, contemporary, all-glass modules with fantastic touchscreens, making it possible to integrate all kinds of data and conning information,” said Minnella. “Whatever combination you want, we tailor your integrated bridge accordingly.”

    i-Bridge Four Islands stands out for its clear, consistent, versatile human-machine interface.

    Among its many innovations, the i-Bridge Four Islands features the first head-up display (HUD) for large yachts. It has a 55-inch, 90% transparent display with a wide viewing angle. Both night and day settings are available. Both settings offer three different data sets. Conning mode shows wind, current and other information needed for maneuvering. The second configuration combines this with a radar or chartplotter display. The third option shows course and associated information in real-time 3D.

    Highlighting the system’s advantages, Minnella said that the i-Bridge Four Islands stands out for its clear, consistent, versatile human-machine interface, facilitating intuitive operation.

    Read more about different kinds of integrated bridge systems here


    Øyvind Bordal

    Øyvind Bordal is a norwegian writer and sailor, based in Denmark and Caribbean.


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    Maria Roberta Morso

    Maria Roberta Morso is a freelance yachting journalist based in Italy.

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    Celia Sampol

    Celia Sampol has been a journalist for more than 15 years. She worked in Brussels and Washington for national medias (Agence France Presse, Liberation, Europolitics). She’s the editor-in-chief of NauticExpo e-magazine and MedicalExpo e-magazine.

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    Tony Slinn

    Formerly editor-in-chief of IHS Maritime, Tony Slinn is an independent maritime journalist.

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