With more than 70 papers presented, topics were varied and in some cases very specific, but there were some clear themes that emerged and prompted discussion over the course of the conference.
In his keynote presentation, Mark Tipping, Offshore Technology manager, Marine and Offshore, Lloyd’s Register, spoke of how data can and should be used to predict which parts of a vessel will need more or less maintenance in one, five or ten years to come, amongst other possible applications. Making reference to his grandfather’s journal that he once used to log the state of his ship when he was at sea in the 1920s, Tipping reflected on the fact that not much has changed in terms of the types of challenges vessels might encounter or crews’ ability to identify potential problems, but the way in which we capture, record and use that data has changed dramatically.
But however much ship design and building may have embraced the digitisation of information, Tipping suggested that the industry will be required to go further if it is to keep up: “We’re starting to approach the buffers of our effectiveness, and this is where we are today, I think.[…]The pdf document, which I do believe revolutionised electronic documents, I think also summaries the mind-set that many of us have today – the fact that we’ve digitalised paper, not information, and that needs to transform as we move forward in the development of products.”
Another keynote presentation came from Professor Dr.-Ing. Wolfgang Müller-Wittig of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), who spoke of the opportunities of augmented reality and smart interfaces, and how they are already being used in the automotive industry for the purposes of marketing products and to attract younger people to consider careers in the industry – a challenge that the maritime industry also faces.
Early stage design
There was a definite emphasis on improving the early stages of the design process, whether that be through introducing 3D models earlier on, or through companies joining forces to make their respective software or processes work more cohesively.
In fact, there were several presentations that claimed impressive reductions in man hours if 3D models were integrated into the design process at a much earlier stage. Namely, Hyundai Heavy Industries’ (HHI) and NAPA’s paper Enabling a Paradigm Shift in Structural Design with a 3D Approach  , claimed that through using NAPA Steel in HHI’s Basic Hull Design Department, the company was able to reduce its initial and basic structural design time by around 30%, while actually improving the quality of the design due to all information coming from a single source. Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) and Intergraph PP&M (part of Hexagon), who have been working together for almost 20 years, also stated in their presentation, A case study in optimising 3D early design for shipbuilding  that by re-engineering SHI’s early design process, they were able to shorten it from 11 months to just eight months.
3D to replace 2D in classification?
With a push for implementing 3D models earlier on in the design process comes the obvious question of why they shouldn’t entirely replace 2D drawings that are currently submitted to classification societies. In some cases, companies are having to create 2D drawings only for this purpose, wasting time and resources that could be better spent working on 3D mock ups.
Delegates from Naval Group, Bureau Veritas and Dassault Systèmes presented their paper, simply entitled 3D Digital Classification , and provided insight into what the use of 3D mock ups in the classification process would mean for ship designers, classification societies and software providers.
For all parties involved it seems that the current process is primarily time consuming – for designers it is of “negative value” to produce 2D drawings from a 3D model and for assessing things like structure or stability, classification society surveyors have to make an independent calculation by building a 3D model based on the supplied 2D drawings.
Another concern was the capacity for confusion that the current system has, both with inconsistencies that might arise from various revisions of drawings, to the way in which comments are communicated. And of course, the concerns for security of data and how stringently intellectual property could be protected were also high on the agenda.
A holistic approach
Some speakers championed the idea of holistic ship design, looking at the bigger picture and considering all aspects of the process from beginning to end, with Digitread AS’s paper Holistic ship design – how to utilise a Digital Twin concept design through basic and detailed design  providing the most focussed presentation on the topic. Torben-H. Stachowski and Helge Kjeilen, Digitread AS, heralded the merits of a Digital Twin and the idea of a “single backbone” that connects all information, collected from different programmes, so that the model can mature through each stage of the process. This connectivity and the early introduction of a Digital Twin will in turn promote transparency that clients and colleagues alike will appreciate and eventually culminate in the production of a better vessel, giving companies “a competitive edge in a digital world.”
Virtual reality (VR) continues to prove itself as a viable option for ship designers and builders and although the equipment is currently a big investment for companies to make, the slow but steady uptake of the technology will see prices drop in coming years, speakers assured delegates.
VR specialist, Virtalis, brought along its stereo projection interactive ActiveMove system and ActiveMove CVR head-mounted display (HMD) equipment so that attendees could experience standing on the deck of a virtual vessel, with the ability to hover high above the ship and ‘fly’ into the engine room to make inspections or move components, all by using a hand-held controller to navigate their way around.
Alfonso Cebollero presented a paper he co-authored with SENER colleague Luis Sánchez, entitled Virtual reality empowered design  that was also published in the October issue of The Naval Architect. It outlined the logistics of incorporating a VR system into the design process, making the prospect of it becoming the norm for companies around the world all the more real.
A leap of faith
The general feeling at the three-day conference was that all of the technology is in place for the industry to truly embrace the digital age, but it’s now up to companies to be brave enough to implement them and leave behind the comfort of practices that have served ship design and building well for decades.
Alexandre Tew Kaï’s, of Dassault Systèmes, paper entitled Driving transformation in the age of experience  seemed to address these feelings. He proposed that as clients request more advanced and innovative designs, designers are required to use more sophisticated technology – technology that may be new to them, therefore possibly increasing the complexity and risk associated with the design. But, he argued, platforms such as Dassault Systèmes’ 3DExperience help each stage of the supply chain to better communicate ideas and generally improve collaboration, in turn helping to decrease instances of duplication or error and save valuable time and resources.
If the industry is going to make the most of revolutionary technology such as VR, and take steps to transform ship design and production as we know it, it needs to jump in with both feet. It’s not enough to digitalise 2D drawings through converting them to pdf format – 3D mock ups need to be created from the offset. Using classification as an example, transitioning from 2D drawings to 3D models will require all parties to completely rethink their approach to the process, but surely the result will be quicker, more reliable and more resource-efficient, which is ultimately what the industry is striving for and the reason for which computer-aided practices are being developed.
If the industry is able to get past the fear of the unknown, what lies ahead will be well worth the risk.
Hulkkonen, T., NAPA, Finland; Shin, H.C., HHI, Korea; Yi, N.Y., HHI, Korea; Jang, D.H., NAPA, Korea and Jang, T.G., NAPA, Korea, Enabling a Paradigm Shift in Structural Design with a 3D Approach, ICCAS 2017.
Cheong, J., Samsung Heavy Industries, South Korea; Baumer, J., Intergraph PP&M, USA and Lee, H., Intergraph Marine Center, South Korea, A case study in optimising 3D early design for shipbuilding, ICCAS 2017.
Chauviere, C. and Degrand, O., Bureau Veritas, France; Le Gal, T., Le Guennic, L. and Cheyland, C., Naval Group, France; Dutrieux, G., Dassault Systèmes, France, 3D Digital Classification, ICCAS 2017.
Stachowski, T-H., and Kjeilen, H., Digitread AS, Norway, Holistic ship design – how to utilise a Digital Twin concept design through basic and detailed design, ICCAS 2017.
Cebellero, A. and Sánchez, L., SENER, Spain, Virtual reality empowered design, ICCAS 2017.
Tew Kaï, A., Dassault Systèmes, Driving transformation in the age of experience, ICCAS 2017.