3D Printing has come along way since it was first introduced a few years ago. It is now used in defence, aerospace, and automotive industries and has moved on to metal parts, and is referred to as AM (additive manufacture). The process consists of a nozzle that adds thin layers of metallic powder to a bed and a laser directed above, moves along the surface and melts the powder to form a solid metallic layer to a given design. The design itself is created as a 3D CAD model and imported into the printing machine.
The oil & gas industry has been a slow adopter to AM due to it’s inherent risk averse culture, but is now following suit with Siemens leading the way by producing gas turbine blades – presently at a pre-production level. New blade designs can be made within a few months, whereas with traditional casting & forging this could take up to 2 years. With AM new complex blade designs are now possible which can increase turbine efficiencies – such as lowering operating temperatures. There is also minimal waste material, and physical stock levels can be reduced with Just In Time manufacture – again reducing costs.
The use of AM has dramatically reduced production costs for the defence, aerospace & automotive industries – for example Boeing reduced costs by $1m on the production of it’s 787 Dreamliner simply by using printed parts !
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ps If you have enjoyed the blog please forward to those who might be interested, many thanks in advance, Mike