Back in September, University of Malta teamed up with Southeast University in China, specifically targeting 3D printing in the marine industry. The project, entitled SEAM (Surface Engineering for Additive Manufactured parts used in marine transportation) is being carried out by the Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering at UM. It aims to put the island on the map in terms of 3D printing parts in the sector.
So, what does it aim to do?
The end goal is to develop 3D printed metallic propellor blades for marine use. Why would this be important? Put simply, the process will layer or deposit molten metallic particles which will then bind together to form the final product.
The surfaces will then be modified to improve corrosion, erosion resistance, and anti-biofouling properties, as well as strengthen the overall structure. The two materials being used are a titanium alloy and a stainless-steel alloy. They’ll both undergo rigorous testing to find out which metal is better suited to the conditions.
The team behind it all
As we said, it’s between two universities, but there are names behind the institutions. The coordinators are Dr Ing. Ann Zammit, and Prof. Jian Chen, from SEU. Prof Ing. Joseph Buhagiar and Prof Ing. Glenn Cassar, are also co-supervising the project, along with Prof. Ting Dai and Dr. Tao Lu. The project is being funded by the Malta Council for Science and Technology and the Ministry of Science and Technology in China, through the 2019 SINO-Malta fund.
There are also two researchers getting through plenty of groundwork. Luana Bonnici and Martina-Marie Pizzuto are both B. Eng. (Hons) graduates, specializing in Metallurgy & Materials Engineering. While Luana is focusing on the stainless-steel mentioned above alloys, Martina-Marie will be taking on the titanium alloys.
Nice, but how does it benefit us?
Given our status as “island in the sun”, to say our economy is dependent on the marine environment is an understatement. 3D printing will allow for rapid printing of intricate designs, which is vital to the industry, since parts need constant replacing due to their exposure to the elements.
This technology boosts innovation, production rates, while allowing for the production of new geometric configurations, along with a reduction in costs and waste. However, we do need more research before implementing on a broader scale. This project will increase local expertise and put the University of Malta at the forefront of investigating the implementation of innovative 3D printing for marine applications at an international level.