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3D printing facility to be set up at PSA's Pasir Panjang Terminal

THE world's first 3D maritime printing facility will be built at PSA's Pasir Panjang Terminal, to create parts that can be used for port equipment.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) signed an agreement on Wednesday to set up the facility.

It will feature state-of-the-art printers and use a specialised maritime digital cloud supported by blockchain technology for increased security of file transfers.

Several agreements were signed on Wednesday at an event to promote the development and use of 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing.

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The government is committed to growing 3D printing in Singapore, a technology that has already disrupted how industries function, said Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health, at the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC) Global Additive Manufacturing Summit at Singapore Expo.

Noting the use of 3D printing in the maritime sector, Dr Lam said: "With additive manufacturing, customised ship parts such as propellers previously produced by original manufacturers at specific locations can now be printed whenever and wherever needed, at ports-of-call or even on-board ships."

He said the replacement of parts could even just be a case of adding on layers to worn-out parts. This can prolong asset lifespans, reduce inventory and lower the cost of maintenance, he added.

Dr Lam noted that 3D printing is disrupting the traditional methods of mass assembly and distribution.

This is because such manufacturing allows for on-site and on-demand production, so companies do not have to rely on centralised factories and elaborate assembly lines.

Customised products in small batches can also be manufactured at a lower cost, as additive manufacturing can produce highly complex objects with intricate details, often with a single 3D printer, Dr Lam added.

Healthcare is one area which has seen the greater use of 3D printing.

For example, 3D printing is used to print synthetic skin tissue for ethical drug and cosmetics testing.

"Skin tissue can even be printed based on a patient's cells, enabling more targeted and effective medical treatments," said Dr Lam.

The maritime sector is another one that has increasingly adopted 3D printing.

At the summit on Wednesday, MPA signed an agreement with NAMIC, PSA Corporation and manufacturing company 3D MetalForge to establish the 3D maritime printing facility.

MPA also launched a joint industry innovation programme for additive manufacturing in maritime parts, together with NAMIC and Singapore Shipping Association.

Andrew Tan, MPA's chief executive, said: "As a leading maritime hub, Singapore firmly believes that the maritime industry should embrace new technologies such as additive manufacturing. The digitalisation of the maritime sector in all its aspects is not a matter of how but when."

Apart from maritime and healthcare, 3D printing can also be used for lifestyle purposes.

NAMIC signed a collaboration with Wiivv Incorporated, a company based in the United States and Canada which works with 3D printed insoles.

With 3D printing in orthotics, digital designs can be translated into customised supports, based on a person's measurements.

THE STRAITS TIMES