Navigating New Unchartered Waters: My Experience Exploring the Future of Additive Manufacturing in Marine Engineering

As a newcomer to the industry, I was thrilled to join the team at Malin Group, securing a position within their Marine Consultants business unit. The unit is firmly focused on progressive solutions and I was excited to begin applying skills gained in my degree to the advancement of the industry. My first project, MariLight, which explores the exciting world of additive manufacturing was the perfect introduction to the industry. This revolutionary technology has the potential to transform the way we design and build marine vessels, and I was now in the position to see first-hand, how we may harness it for everyday use within the wider industry.


From a young age, I’ve always been captivated by how things work, with a thirst for investigation and the mechanics of things. As I delved deeper into the field of engineering during my school years, I became increasingly fascinated by the intricate and complex world of mechanical engineering. After graduation, when the opportunity then arose to join Malin Group, a renowned leader in the maritime industry, I knew it was a chance I couldn’t pass up. Malin Group’s commitment to innovation and investigative interest in additive manufacturing aligned perfectly with my own aspirations; it was an opportunity to be at the forefront of cutting-edge technology in an industry that plays a vital role in shaping our global economy.

amber lithgow engineer
Amber Lithgow, part of MMC and the MarLight project shares her experiences

The world of marine engineering is constantly evolving, and one of the most exciting developments in recent years has been the rise of additive manufacturing. Also known as 3D printing, this innovative technology has the potential to revolutionise the way we design and manufacture components and structures for the maritime industry. Traditionally, marine engineering has relied on conventional design and manufacturing methods, which often involve lengthy, hazardous and time-consuming processes. However, additive manufacturing offers a new approach. By building up layers of material,  additive manufacturing eliminates the need for expensive moulds and a huge amount of welding processes which in turn reduces cost and lead time and allows engineers to manufacture intricate and customized parts with ease.

The impact of additive manufacturing on marine engineering is far-reaching. One of the major advantages is the ability to create complex geometries that were previously impossible or impractical to achieve. This opens a world of possibilities for optimising the design of ship components, such as propellers and foundations. By utilising additive manufacturing, engineers have the freedom to push the boundaries of what is possible, resulting in more efficient and reliable systems. Not only that, but the potential for weight reduction is also immense.

In the marine industry, every kilogram saved translates into increased fuel efficiency and cost savings. By utilising lightweight materials and optimising designs, additive manufacturing can help to reduce the overall weight of components without compromising strength or durability. This not only improves the performance of vessels but also contributes to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to marine engineering.

From this short overview, you can see why working on MariLight – and as my first project – was therefore a dream come true; it afforded me the opportunity to investigate large-scale additive manufacturing and do so with several respected partners: National Manufacturing Institute Scotland, Lloyd’s Register, Altair Engineering and BAE Systems. This collaborative approach proved to be fascinating, as I witnessed the seamless integration of traditional engineering practices with considerations around additive manufacturing. The team was able to leverage (and share with me) their extensive knowledge and expertise in marine engineering to investigate areas where additive manufacturing could be utilised to enhance performance, reduce costs, and expedite production timelines.

It wasn’t just the technology that captivated me; it was the passion and dedication of the people behind it. The team have been driven by a shared vision of revolutionising the marine engineering industry and pushing the boundaries of what was possible, and I am exceptionally proud to be a part of that. Their commitment to excellence and their willingness to embrace new technologies and methodologies were truly inspiring.

Having kicked off in January 2023, funded through the CMDC2 competition with an award of £250,000, the project is now nearing completion and the results are being written up. The results will inform the next steps and include a follow up proposal to implement our findings and carry out the further work suggested in the feasibility project. The last nine months have been a whirlwind: challenging, inspiring, eye-opening. An experience that has first-hand given me a glimpse into the future of large-scale additive manufacturing in marine engineering. The advancements being made in this field are not only transforming the way we design and build marine structures but also opening a world of possibilities for increased efficiency, sustainability, and operational performance. As I continue to navigate the depths of this exciting industry, I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a team that is at the forefront of innovation. Together, we are shaping the future of marine engineering and propelling the industry into uncharted waters.