Collaboration optimising oil & gas supply chain using AM

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A compact heat exchanger printed from stainless steel AISI 316L. (Image: Senai)

Research and industrial partners are using additive manufacturing (AM) to optimise and increase the sustainability of the oil & gas industry supply chain.

Over the next two years, optical system manufacturer Zeiss, non-profit Brazillian research and technology organisation Senai and energy company Petróleo Brasileiro, will be developing and validating AM methodologies for the manufacturing and qualification of critical components for the industry.

The research will focus on evaluating laser beam powder bed fusion (PBF-LB) as well as laser beam directed energy deposition (DED-LB), two AM processes already used in the production and repair of components such as valves, flanges and heat exchangers.

Of extreme importance for economical production of these parts, according to Dr Edson Costa Santos, senior application development manager of additive manufacturing process & control for Zeiss, is ‘a precise understanding of powder aging and the influence of powder degradation on defects in the final parts.’

Therefore the partners will use multi scale multitool computed tomography strategies to enable rapid parameter development and increased process stability for the two AM processes.

As part of the jointly defined roadmap, the research and industrial partners are collaborating on the following:

  • Selecting high-added value and critical components in the oil & gas industry for on- and off-shore environments;

  • Raw material (powder) processability, recyclability, traceability, and quality control;

  • Faster development and optimisation of processing parameters for laser-based additive manufacturing of parts by employing a new and robust experimental method;

  • Application of mechanical, wear, and non-destructive tests on the additively manufactured parts.

By 2023, the international consortium aims to achieve tangible impacts in the Brazilian AM market through intensive results and technology transfer, and to positively change the supply chain of the oil & gas industry in the medium to long term. As the parts needed in this market are often produced locally and on demand, the companies will then also act more sustainably.

Protolabs achieves DNV certification for additive manufacturing in the oil & gas industry

Rapid prototype manufacturing firm Protolabs has recently achieved ‘Qualification of Manufacturer’ DNV certification for one of its AM processes.

The certification applies to the firm’s direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) technology, specifically for the superalloy Inconel 718 – a high-strength, corrosion-resistant nickel chromium. With it Protolabs can rapidly produce complex geometries for parts which are exposed to harsh environments. The certification will therefore provide important assurances around part performance and equipment safety for the demanding conditions of the oil & gas sector.

Protolabs is among the first manufacturers in the EMEA region to achieve the certification, and the first certified manufacturer using powder bed fusion technology in its additive process – ideal for high resolution and geometrical accuracy.

Daniel Cohn, general manager and 3D printing lead for Protolabs EMEA commented: 'Trust is, rightly, an important necessity for the oil & gas industry and also the wider energy sector. But now assurance can be given with the work we’ve conducted under the keen eye of DNV – the independent expert in risk management and assurance for the sector. Audits of our manufacturing facilities and processes prove that we comply with the general demands of the oil & gas industry so we can now move forward with even greater support for the sector as a whole.'

Achieving the certification is a process of technical evaluation of a number of probes within the machinery in combination with the material, individually and the system as a whole. The independent certification provides reliable proof that the probes meet the high qualification standard set out by DNV.

Dr Sastry Kandukuri, senior principal materials specialist in DNV’s Energy Systems Business Unit, commented: 'I am very happy our Global Additive Manufacturing (AM) Technology Centre of Excellence was able to support Protolabs to reach this milestone, as the first certified manufacturer using powder bed fusion technology in their additive process. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Protolabs that gives the assurance and confidence of AM products as their use grows in the oil & gas and energy industries.'

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