‘It doesn’t feel like work’

How can a marine offshore construction company use additive manufacturing to improve sustainability? Master’s student Meike Kolthof is exploring this.

Meike Kolthof. (Photo: Heather Montague)

“I did my bachelor’s at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering and I continued with a Master’s in Integrated Product Design. I minored in Marine Yacht Design, and I’m intrigued by using design to improve sustainability. I started my graduation project two months ago at Heerema Marine Contractors, an offshore construction company. I’m researching the potential of additive manufacturing onboard their vessels.

These big vessels are comparable to the length of a train and have around 500 people working on them. These ships have a lot of spare parts on board. When I was there for the first time, I was impressed by the size. All of these parts have to be onboard and taken offshore regularly and, after use, they need to be replaced.

It is good to have this offshore industry since it can be used to build, for example, wind farms. But the way projects are executed could be more sustainable. Heerema is intrinsically motivated to become more sustainable. They have a roadmap, and one of the steps on this roadmap is exploring additive manufacturing. Instead of ordering parts, then transporting them over distances, sometimes even flying them in when it’s urgent, I’m researching the idea of printing parts onboard the vessels.

‘Maybe it could work with a metal printer as well’

What I have found so far is an exciting way of 3D printing metal. Most people think of plastics when you talk about additive manufacturing. But most of the parts onboard the vessels are metal. The Royal Navy of the Netherlands is already using a plastic printer onboard their ships, so if they already do this, maybe it could work with metal as well. I want to take it a step further to discover what’s possible.

I also really love sailing. When I came to TU Delft, I joined De Brielse Zeilschool and I became a sailing instructor and then trained to become a chief instructor. It means you not only teach the kids at summer sailing camps, but you also have the responsibility for all 40 kids and 20 staff members. It’s a week during the summer, and it’s awesome. It’s a lot of fun, and it has taught me a lot about managing projects.

I think that’s also one of the strengths of my graduation project. It’s so much fun that for me it doesn’t feel like work. I really enjoy it.”


Meike Kolthof.

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Heather Montague / Freelance writer

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