Strong, lightweight carbon fiber tools

A Finnish marine manufacturer was able to replace a solid steel tool with a carbon fiber 3D printed version, reducing weight and cutting costs.

The tool is capable of lifting up to 960kg with a safety factor of four.
The tool is capable of lifting up to 960kg with a safety factor of four.

Wärtsilä, based in Finland, makes a variety of engineering products for the marine and energy markets. It runs factories in Vaasa, Finland, and Trieste, Italy, that manufacture large engines that power a third of the world's largest cargo ships. The teams often need to make tools to solve problems and improve the efficiency of both the field and factories, and usually have to rely on third-party suppliers to manufacture them.

One such example is a lifting tool, which is critical to building and servicing large engines. The tool is a custom piece of hardware that allows them to move heavy engine parts such as pistons. These lifting tools are important as they can make lifting operations more efficient during the manufacturing process, and help engineers perform maintenance at the facility or on cargo ships. To interface with the complex features of their engines, many of the tools have unique mating features.

Wärtsilä usually machines its lifting tools out of solid steel, but found the resulting tools to be too expensive, too time-intensive to manufacture, and too heavy for people to use and transport. The teams are also unable to make quick design changes when needed. Each cost and weight increase has a significant impact when scaled across hundreds of tools — especially when the tool is needed to service or perform maintenance on parts in a large commercial ship where space is limited. The original lifting tool was machined out of solid steel and weighed 75% more than its 3D printed replacement.


Read the full feature article in the MAG Online Library here.