From bow to stern, 3D ship design

3D digital design can save “deck plate dollars” during construction while maintaining safety, says Patrick Ryan, Senior Vice President, Global Engineering and Technology, ABS.


Last year, ABS, Robert Allan, Signet and USCG collaborated on a project that would be the first commercial vessel in US history to be produced using only 3D models in the design and construction of all structures. While the process used to deliver this RAL-designed Advanced Rotortug (ART) is historic, it’s just the beginning as Ryan says a pure 3D process reduces cost and time investment, while streamlining the process. interaction between all stakeholders throughout design, verification and construction. phases, without compromising safety.

“ABS started focusing on this (pure digital process) in 2018 with a series of joint development R&D projects,” both publicly promoted and those that remained private, Ryan said.
These early development projects were in fact building blocks of the digitization production process, with the ART tug representing the completed structure, “purely and completely, from stem to stern, with all drawings replaced by 3D CAD from the point of view. for the revision of the plans”.

It turns out ABS hasn’t just been on the digital path, it’s helped bring disparate parties together to effectively lead the transformation, with a keen eye on not just efficiency and cost savings, but also about increased security levels, too.

“To a large extent it’s really about saving our customers money on deck plate during construction while maintaining the focus on safety,” Ryan said. Although the savings vary widely depending on the scale of the project and are closely held proprietary information, Ryan said the savings can be substantial. “I come from shipbuilding before my time at ABS, and I really think about it from the perspective of lean manufacturing and waste disposal.”

“(I’ve been saying for over a decade) technical drawings are wasteful in a lean production sense because they’re an inefficient method of communication,” Ryan said. “With mobility and modern technology and the advent of computers on the deck plate, this makes drawing production an antiquated process.”
“I studied drafting in college and I have respect for the romance and beauty of an engineering plan. But if you can communicate directly from CAD with those downstream stakeholders and eliminate drafting of the production process, you save money in engineering.

The ABS method for integrating 3D models

The milestone with RAL and Signet is just the latest in a succession of ABS firsts in the class based on the 3D model. According to the classification society, ABS was the first to develop a process for integrating 3D models into classroom software to enable revisions based on 3D models in 2018. ABS then became the first classification body to accept 3D models for class surveys in April 2020.

“We are very philosophically focused on flexibility, regardless of file format, regardless of pure CAD or PLM involvement, which makes it easy for everyone,” Ryan said.

“ABS does not want to dictate to shipyards the format or types of files they should submit to us. We work with those yards first, usually as part of a JDP, to establish what that exchange process looks like, and then we leverage their existing process to make it easier for them, rather than trying to drive the industry towards a standard.

Towards the cloud

Watching the 3D process evolve from R&D to market has been exciting for Ryan and his team, and it has also brought its share of surprises, especially with its broad interest and acceptance. “What surprised me the most about this is that it’s not a capital ship, it’s not a major ship approach,” Ryan said. “I thought the early adoption in this area would be in the major capital projects that were being driven by the top shipyards for hundred million dollar projects. That hasn’t been the case. We’ve seen this (interest) across the spectrum, (from) large vessels, to patrol boats, to tugs, and all the way to barges.

Although still in its infancy, Ryan looks to the future…or rather upwards…to “the cloud”.

“What’s exciting is that starting last year, we started moving it from an R&D project to the basic ABS process,” Ryan said. “We’re starting to move this whole approach to the cloud to really facilitate this exchange and make everything easier. We know that there are security issues, and we tackle them very rigorously to ensure that this data is well protected. The future is bright for digital classroom exchange.


  • Watch Patrick Ryan’s full interview on Maritime Reporter TV:

Abdul J. Gaspar