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Marine & Shipbuilding

Why do You Need 3D Models for Efficient Ship Design?

Change is the only constant when we talk about maintaining a fleet of ships. Often each ship is specifically fitted for certain missions, or changes have already been incorporated during the building process in comparison to the original planning due to lessons learned or availability of the components. Another important aspect considering the lifecycle of a ship is that these modifications often require detailed study and planning, in order to determine the true impact of these modifications.

The benefits and value of engineering contractor representing data in the form of 3D data-centric models to improve engineering quality and efficiency is no longer a subject of dispute in the marine industry. The benefits and value of data represented in 3D models to the owner operator, however, are less established. It is important to represent the data in a manner that is as close as possible to the physical world so that people can easily identify and recognize the data. 3D models are a prime example of how this can be achieved – a 3D model in combination with an info map (see the image below) can show all the related data and/or information of a physical object in the same view.

An info map showing data relationships with a model and drawings

It is apparent, though, that owners are starting to make increased use of data shown in 3D models, and nowadays a growing number of owner operators request the 3D model to be included in the scope of project deliverables. There is also a higher prevalence for laser scanning of existing facilities.

Availability of up-to-date integrated 3D models can help reduce time and cost for ship modifications and ship’s life extensions, as well as serve as a useful tool for several day-to-day tasks during the operation and maintenance of the asset.

It is an interesting observation that most of the yards have moved to data-centric 3D engineering solutions, that are still producing mainly Excel sheets and drawings as their main output for the next stages within the building process. Knowing that the design in general accounts for 90 to 95% of the data used in the next stages of ship building, it is imperative to keep that information throughout the complete life cycle of the ship. The data should be available, even beyond the delivery through an as-build model, especially for the large and complex offshore and navy projects.

Furthermore, the need for data and 3D information has also grown as more automation and robotics are being introduced at the shop floor. The 3D model is an important tool also in the fabrication process, since it should accommodate the imperfections of the fabrication and construction phases, such as margins and shrinkage. This should be done so that the fabrication process can take these imperfections into account in order to fabricate a 1:1 ship as it was originally designed.

The 3D model is also important during the construction phase in order to visualize the work packages.  The need for off-line work packaging with 3D model views is an important functionality especially for areas that include a lot of steel structures.

It is also a lot easier to have the tags and the 3D model visible on your mobile device when doing system completion checks.


Another important aspect of shipyards is their project management. Simply delivering quality projects on time and on budget is no longer an acceptable benchmark of success. Instead, projects performance today requires a broader perspective and needs to answer the following questions:

  • Do our project portfolios deliver the intended strategy?
  • Are both business goals and financial objectives being met?

Only by selecting the right projects, in conjunction with exceptional project delivery, can you meet and exceed the performance results demanded today. Yet the scale and complexity of today’s projects and portfolios have made it difficult to achieve and maintain high levels of performance.  The difference between how most engineering and construction projects are expected to perform, and how they really perform is often stark. Inconsistent processes and low predictability throughout the project lifecycle are yielding regular cost and schedule overages and sporadic business results. A new way of working is imperative, galvanized by an industry leading platform powered by and empowering Digital Transformation. EcoSys enterprise project performance software allows both owners and contractors to select the right projects to drive their business and growth objectives.


Curious to learn more about Hexagon PPM’s 3D and visualization or enterprise project performance solutions for the marine industry? Come and talk to us at the booth 13 at the PI Marine event in Hamburg on Jan. 20-21 to learn more!