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Article: 3D Printing in Energy

Stratasys Direct
Stratasys Direct July 25, 2018
July 25, 2018
energy oil gas industry

3D Printing in the Energy, Oil and Gas Industry

While the headlines can be dominated by 3D printing’s use in aircrafts and deep space, there’s been revolutionary use of the technology deep underground and in our oceans. 3D printed parts are being utilized by the energy sector to harness the natural resources of our planet.  

As additive manufacturing (AM), aka 3D printing, technology has become more efficient, with lightweight components, cost-efficient services and environmentally-friendly materials, energy companies have found solutions to their diverse requirements and field functions.  Major companies like Chevron, Shell Global, BP Global and GE Oil & Gas have published stories around their use of AM for prototyping and production applications in their industry.

3D Printing Applications for Energy, Oil & Gas

A key application of 3D printing in the energy sector is rapid prototyping. Time to market is one of the most critical issues any industry faces – the longer their concept stays in the design cycle, the less potential profit for the company. With pressure to create solutions quickly, engineers and designers must make quick, accurate decisions during the concept stage. Rapid prototyping is a key step in design verification, but can pose a potential roadblock to launch if not executed quickly and cost-effectively. Rapid prototyping and 3D printing go hand-in-hand. 3D printing prototypes allows engineers to fail fast, produce multiple iterations and change a component design overnight to meet deadlines. 

Utilizing 3D printing to fabricate production, end-use parts has also become an increasingly mainstream operation in the energy sector.  Because 3D printing can create custom, complex parts faster than traditional manufacturing processes, engineers have found the technology to be a perfect solution for low-volume projects. 3D printing doesn’t require tooling, and it can product lightweight structures with complex internal features, a key element in the next-generation of energy, oil and gas components. 

The oil and gas industry requires parts to meet robust performance and environmental standards. Newly developed 3D printing materials like Antero 800NA, a PEKK-based thermoplastic, combine hydrocarbon resistance, good tensile properties, and high heat-deflection.

One increasingly crucial application of 3D printing in the energy sector is seen in the spare parts market. The high cost of downtime and logistical challenges of distribution to wide-spread, remote locations has amounted to overstocking of spare parts. 3D printing provides a solution through fast, on-demand printing of legacy parts from an on-site system or a 3D printing service provider. 

 

energy sector

Types of Energy Applications Prototyped or Produced with 3D Printing

  • Fluid/water flow analysis
  • Jigs & fixtures
  • Rotors
  • Stators
  • Mud motor modules
  • Flow meter parts
  • Pressure gauge pieces
  • Control-valve components
  • Pump manifolds
  • Plastic impellers
  • Casings
  • Connectors
  • Wind turbine components
  • Solar panel frames & supports
  • Junction boxes

Future of 3D Printing in Energy, Oil & Gas

As energy, oil and gas companies continue to explore the benefits of 3D printing utilized efficiently in their supply chains, there could be significant growth seen in the industry. On offshore rigs, downtime can be very costly for an oil company; 3D printing addresses this challenge with on-site manufacturing, for fast replacement of broken parts. Energy, oil and gas engineers can pursue consolidated designs produced with AM for more efficient components. Increasingly, the technology is proving to be an efficient solution for the energy industries complex needs. 
 

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