Page 38: of Offshore Engineer Magazine (Jul/Aug 2020)
TECH TALK 3D Printing
THE CASE FOR 3D PRINTING
Advanced design software supports growth of additive manufacturing applications in the oil and gas industry
By Blake Perez, Ph.D.,
Design-for-Additive-Manufacturing Expert, nTopology Inc.
dditive manufacturing (AM, aka 3D printing) is ing titanium, duplex and stainless steels, nickel and chromium- beginning to impact product-development strat- based superalloys. AM’s ability to build complex, optimized part egies in the oil and gas industry just as it already geometries from these and other high-grade materials means has in many other industries—by shifting the that less metal is needed to meet the oil and gas industry’s strin- production paradigm in unexpected ways. gent mechanical requirements, shortening manufacturing time,
Particularly in the case of downhole tools, overall tool size is reducing costs, and helping streamline operations. compatible with the range of part dimensions that today’s AM More ef?cient drilling and fracking operations are essential systems are capable of manufacturing. Consider a common piece to industry growth, but so is an optimized supply chain. Here of equipment on any oil and gas rig: the tricone drill bit. Re- again, AM offers an array of bene?ts. Rather than the tradi- quired to function within relatively narrow spaces, together with tional manufacturing work?ow—with multiple machining mechanical components that force drill mud down the well hole steps, signi?cant tooling and ?xturing investment, costly work- to carry rock, dirt, and clay back up, the bit is part of an intensely in-process, and typically lengthy lead-times—even the most technical setup that undergoes extreme heat and pressure. complex component can be 3D printed in fewer operations
With AM, engineers could be given an extended ability to far more quickly and with much less human intervention. For embed sensors practically anywhere within the drill head, or these reasons among others, MRO suppliers to the oil & gas to control the design and manufacturing parameters of the industry are especially keen on additive manufacturing, since components for maximum mud ?ow through the part. Ad- its ability to create replacement parts “on-demand” promises vanced design-for-AM tools and 3D printing now make this to reduce inventory levels without sacri?cing customer service. possible. What if similar improvements could be made to the Granted, the actual AM “build” of a pump part or drill bit perforation tools for the fracking process, tailoring them for might require a day or two to complete, followed by another cleaner and deeper perforations? What effect would more ef?- day or so of post-processing, but compared to the weeks or even cient pumps have on these extraction methods? When driven months needed with conventional procurement methods, addi- by advanced design software capable of generating the com- tive manufacturing serves to drastically compress lead-times and ponent geometries that can answer such questions, additive shorten the supply chain of certain components. And this can manufacturing offers these capabilities and more. While not easily mean hundreds of thousands of dollars per day when crit- an end-use oil and gas product, the cutting tool image shown ical systems are down, the well sits idle, the oil no longer ?ows. demonstrates how such tools could be redesigned.
It’s also important to note AM’s broad range of material capa-
Designing for both new and legacy parts bilities as well. Where the ?rst 3D-printers were limited to pro-
While using advanced design software in conjunction with totypes made of simple polymers—suitable for testing form and AM promotes the creation of innovative, problem-solving oil ?t but not function—today’s machines print a wide range of and gas components it can also help improve the design and engineering-grade plastics as well as fully-dense metals, includ- manufacturability of legacy parts. 38 OFFSHORE ENGINEER OEDIGITAL.COM