Live from the Sea


By: Mariel Felix

We are not the usual 3D printing company. In fact, we are not a 3D printing company. We offer Parts Replacement as a Service (PRaaS), delivering secure, scalable and cost-effective digitized inventory and on-site production solutions. Working with leading partners across maritime, offshore and the construction industries, the Ivaldi PRaaS Solution reduces inventory, warehousing needs, delivery times and cost of logistics by allowing organizations to send files, not parts, thanks to additive manufacturing.

The “Live from the Sea” series is a monthly feature of a part delivered to one of our end-users. One of our team members will be writing an article after visiting a vessel, whom we delivered a part to. This is an opportunity to share about the amazing work we get to do everyday with our customers!

Vessel visits are a key component for us to understand our users’ needs and see, first hand, how our service can be of help to the crews. The visits themselves, which you will read about in this series, is one of the most critical and challenging tasks our team has to perform weekly.

This first article of the series is by Mariel Felix, Industrial Designer, and describes a vessel visit she did from our Singapore location.  

As industrial design graduates, we know very little of the maritime industry and everything it involves. It's a challenging approach from both a professional and physical point-of-view when you’re about to climb on a 14 meters high, 109 long merchant vessel!

If it gets too overwhelming, the key is to imagine you're not about to climb a 14 meter rope ladder in the middle of the sea. Also, I keep my eyes on the reward because it is always priceless. We see first hand the environment our parts will be facing; we get to talk to the crew who always provides useful information; and we get to be on a vessel! These are fully operating vessels in one of the busiest, biggest commercial ports in the world!

Since so much is happening during a vessel call, to perform our vessel activities in the most organized, efficient and secured way, we have to clearly communicate our intention onboard. To make the most of each visit, we also need to share our expectations and requirements prior to the visit. Managing such vessels requires more than one person, of course.

We have communication channels with vessel managers (onshore point person to the vessel), vessel masters (onboard point person of the vessel), and also, with the chiefs and captains once we are on board.

Once we are notified that we are welcome to attend a vessel visit, we gather our equipment together, getting ready to perform our activities, which, in a nutshell, are the following:

  • Checking in with our end-users,
  • Taking pictures and gather information of parts that are hard to procure, such as unobtainables,  
  • Field testing 3D printed parts as we find a suitable use case on board,
  • Documenting delivered parts’ location,
  • Gathering feedback on previously delivered parts.

  • Being aware of the hierarchy of our point of contact onboard the vessel, every visit starts with our team introducing themselves to the captains, chief engineers, and chief officers. Even though they are already notified of our activities, we take a moment to show the newest 3D printed parts we’ve incorporated to our Digital Warehouse, answer their questions and listen to their actual needs and pains in terms of spares and parts that are hard to procure. After all, they and their crew will be the ones interacting with the final products.

    Vessels reaching Singapore are on a tight schedule as they only have a few days to perform bunkering, audits and welcome visitors. We are grateful for each visit we are able to get. Once we are authorized and provided with a crew member to accompany us, we can get hands on in our usual rounds to the deck, the engine room and their spare parts room and workshop.

    The part I will be describing might be a simple sounding cap that we found on deck, but it has a special place in our hearts as it was our first captured and digitized part that went through our complete process. Pretty exciting!

    During our deck rounds, we usually look for non-critical parts to not compromise safety, IP matters or affect a complete system. As we came across this part, we took measurements, notes about the environment of the part, the original material, its function, etc.

    This cap, usually made out of copper, is commonly stolen. It is an important part as it functions as a cover to keep dust and water out of the valve. We optimized and redesigned the part’s function and downgraded the material to a less valuable end part made out of plastic.

    After obtaining all required information to digitize the part, we went back to the Local Manufacturing Center, where we were able to identify it based on maritime products catalogs, categorize it and upload it into our system. Here is where the digitizing happens. All critical measures and information are provided to our engineers, who approve this for our designers to make a digital 3D model. This cap (and, actually, any part that goes through our system) faces several verification steps and quality assurances until it’s finally printed in Singapore as a part approved for field testing.

    For this particular case, we were able to get on board on the same vessel where the cap was originally found, which was a perfect opportunity for field testing.

    The crew, knowing our requirements, helped us find the location on deck from where the original part was located. The cap, having passed all of our quality tests, fitted just right. With prior permission from the captain and chief engineer, we were allowed to replace the original cap with our 3D printed one. Since all our parts are labeled to keep them identified, we can always trace back all its developing process until it’s printed and delivered. After documenting where the cap was placed on deck, we called it a successful visit. Now, it is up to the crew to keep us informed on the status of this 3D printed replacement.

    Any other part that is field tested during our visits is documented to determine what changes need to be made. Since our technology is in constant improvement, a part we weren’t able to do months ago, we may be able to do now. Our Digital Warehouse keeps on increasing in parts and in value, and we just wait for the next opportunity to be back at the sea testing our parts.