Live from the Sea


By: Anna D’Alessio

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 third article of the series is by Anna D’Alessio, Quality Systems Specialist, and describes a vessel visit she did from Long Beach, California.  

It was a hot summer day in Long Beach, California. I got onto a bus with no air conditioning, and we drove from the port entrance to the vessel. As I look up and see shipping containers hanging in the air as they’re loaded and unloaded onto ships, I realize how large these ships really are. It’s my second ship visit, but I know this is still new for the crew to welcome us on-board for 3D printing research purposes. I climb the stairs and the ramp and as I wait to sign in, I see the crew swiftly moving through the ship. I quickly realized that the US Coast Guard was on board inspecting the vessel and the crew. The chief officer brought me into the office and asked if I could sit there until he found someone less busy. I sat down next to a member of the coast guard, smiled to be polite, and took out my 3D printed samples in preparation for a quick chat with any of the crew. I was clearly not the most important person visiting.

I observed as the crew demonstrated safety drills with sweat running down their faces. Finally, the inspection was over, and the crew could breathe again. The coast guard finished their paperwork and left the ship. The chief engineer came over to meet me and asked if I was hungry or thirsty. We walked to the kitchen where I was served cold water and ice cream, two of my favorite things! While we ate our ice cream, I explained Ivaldi Group and why I was on the ship that day. It took a while, but once the chief engineer was able to hold parts in his hand and see the various materials and textures, he started to open up and seemed interested in what we were doing and in 3D printing.

He started to tell me about parts that break commonly on ships and how they measure cycles in hours. Most of what they replaced were rubber parts. These parts were small but necessary for the system to run. There are even instances where a small part is broken that is needed to run a system, which affects a second system. So, a simple gasket can cause two systems to be down, something the crew cannot afford. We talked about material properties and requirements of these parts including the importance of quality standards. The most surprising part of this conversation was that there are often times where the crew can foresee a needed replacement within the next 2-3 weeks, and they still struggle to get spares on time. This is the perfect opportunity for Parts Replacement as a Service.

From there, we moved on to the supply room where I was given access to rummage through the stock of spare parts on the shelves looking for OEMs, materials, and sizes.

As I was going through boxes checking out all the parts replaced so regularly that they need to have multiple spares on board at one time, various crew members kept coming by bringing me parts asking if we could print them. I realized how excited they were now that the stress of their inspection was over. I passed around the samples I had brought and talked to the crew about their pain points. Unfortunately, it took some explaining for them to understand our capabilities and the capabilities of the technology, but they were especially impressed with flexible parts and the different flexible materials.

We then moved upstairs to the bridge where I briefly met the captain. We walked through and talked about button covers and knobs, and they explained the navigation system they use. It was fascinating. I took some sketches of parts that sometimes break and checked if any of our existing parts would fit, but it was a different system than the one we had designed for.

We then went outside where the crew showed me multiple parts that were rusted. I saw multiple examples of parts that were badly rusted and jagged. It looked dangerous. It turns out it is. One of the crew members showed me a scar from cutting himself on one of these edges. There was a hose knob with sharp edges. The salt and humidity had done a number on it. I asked the crew if they used that hose often, and to my surprise, they said yes, every day.

I looked in my bag of samples and found a flexible cap that looked like it would fit over the jagged metal. I went to install it, and with a little effort, it fit! The crew wanted to try it out, and soon there was water all over the floor as people turned the hose on and off with their bare hands.

The rubber stopper made it easier to handle even though it was not designed specifically for this purpose, but could be used as a quick fix until a specialized part could be made. This was a great example of how 3D printing can allow for quick fixes, and by replacing the material, we eliminate the possibility of rusting away.

It may not sound like much, but the simple parts are the ones that are often overlooked. I left the ship feeling satisfied that I had helped just a little and educated the crew about 3D printing. I brought back knowledge of specific examples and temperature requirements for new materials. I’m excited to continue to learn from the crew during future vessel visits.