RDM Rotterdam takes on a ‘Field Lab’ with 3D metal printers

Nederland, Rotterdam, 2014. Foto; Freek van Arkel / Hollandse Hoogte

11 February 2016 – The Port of Rotterdam is getting its very own Additive Manufacturing Field Lab with 3D metal printers. It will encompass metal printers and a centre for developing expertise with respect to metal printing, 3D scanning, 3D design and certification at RDM Rotterdam. The Field Lab offers port-related companies a collective location at which to accelerate developments in this field and collaborate on applications for (the maritime) industry. The Field Lab will be housed in the Innovation Dock at RDM Rotterdam, a dedicated spot for innovation within the Rotterdam port area, where businesses, researchers and students work together on shaping the new manufacturing industry.


A pilot project for 3D printing of spare parts for the maritime industry has been underway over the past year. The three initiators of this (InnovationQuarter, RDM Makerspace and Havenbedrijf Rotterdam) pilot project have also prepared for the creation of a Field Lab. The Havenbedrijf has moved towards setting up a private limited company for the Field Lab and for making the necessary initial investments.


Allard Castelein, CEO of the Havenbedrijf, announced the creation of the Field Lab during the 3D Printing Conference that is taking place today, 11 February 2016, at RDM Rotterdam. Castelein believes that a Field Lab is required at this location: ‘3D printing is promising but also very complex. Developments are moving very fast. There are very few companies with sufficient expertise and the necessary resources to be able to start working with 3D metal printing. We have therefore taken the initiative to set up a Field Lab where companies and knowledge institutions can connect. In the second half of the year, we will put the first 3D metal printer into use. The Field Lab is the next logical step in the project which started last year, making spare parts for ships with 3D printing techniques. Rotterdam aims to be the world’s smartest port and to lead the field in terms of the application of this type of innovation. This is good for industry and employment opportunities.’


Smart Industry assigned the project the status of Field Lab. Smart Industry is a collaborative partnership between the Ministry of Economic Affairs, VNO NCW, FME, TNO, the CoC and ICT Nederland. The aim is to make the industry more competitive by making faster and more effective use of the opportunities offered by ICT. The Netherlands now has eleven Field Labs.


The investment in the Rotterdam Field Lab amounts to several million Euros. An advanced 3D metal printer costs around € 1 million Euros. The size of the Field Lab will depend on the participation of companies and institutions. Fifteen companies have already signed a statement of intent for participation in the Field Lab. The aim is to have the Field Lab operational in the second half of the year. If the Field Lab is able to operate independently in a few years from now, or if 3D metal printing becomes a generally applied technique, the Havenbedrijf will step away from the project.

Successful pilot project

In the past year, the InnovationQuarter, RDM Makerspace and the Havenbedrijf Rotterdam have set up a pilot project for 3D printing of spare parts for the maritime industry. A great deal of experience has thus been gained and 3D printing would seem to be a technology with a great deal of potential for Rotterdam’s industry. The pilot involved 28 companies, including Keppel Verolme, Marin, Heerema, Huisman and Fokker.


Working with many partners is an integral part of the way in which the Havenbedrijf initiates innovation in the Port of Rotterdam. In the context of various projects, such as iTanks, Innovation Dock, PortXL and SmartPort, the Havenbedrijf collaborates with partners such as TU Delft, Hogeschool Rotterdam, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Deltalinqs, EY, Cambridge Innovation Center, Rotterdam Partners, Philips Innovation Award and the Municipality of Rotterdam.