Dutch Navy Ships Repaired Using 3D-Scans

The Royal Dutch Navy is an early adaptor of  innovative ways of speeding up the repair process to their ships by making 3D-scans of parts and even whole vessels.

Hr. Ms. Tromp

With a modest fleet of 32 ships, including 6 frigates, it goes without saying that elements of the Royal Dutch Navy vessels need replacing from time to time. In the past this was done by measuring the component by hand, which was labour intensive and time consuming as well as being susceptible to errors. In some cases a blueprint or 3D-CAD computer file was available, making it a bit easier to replicate parts.


Marinebedrijf Koninklijke Marine (MKM) is responsible for fixing or replacing damaged parts of the Royal Dutch Navy fleet. MKM recently started to make 3D scans of all the ship components, small as well as larger units. ‘Using 3D scanning has saved us weeks of work—older processes were very intensive requiring multiple types of measuring tools and then replicating the drawing into a CAD program,’ says Ben Jansen, coordinator at MKM.

The scan results in a 3D image which is than used to reverse engineer the object. Next, the object is replicated using 3D-printing, 3-5 axis milling or 3D welding.

3D-scanning tools

The navy repair shop uses several handheld 3D-scanning devices to do the job. The most advanced is the Artec Leo . This latest generation of 3D-scanning tools has an integrated computer processor that doesn’t require a connection to a standalone computer, making it a fully portable scanning device.

What will the future hold?

Currently it is possible to 3D print small components using durable plastics. The breakthrough will come when those components can be printed using the same high end metals currently being used in the ships now.

There is no timetable for this massive undertaking. However, at some point in the future, navy ships will replicate the parts, directly, onboard a vessel, first making a 3D-scan of the component and then printing it with a 3D printer. Making a ship completely self sufficient.