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Is 3D Printing the Future for the Oil and Gas Industry

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Is 3D Printing the Future for the Oil and Gas Industry?

This blog will explore the emergence of 3D printing within the Oil and Gas industry. Taking a look at the advantages and disadvantages of the technology, and how it can impact the industry. To begin with we will take a brief look at what 3D printing is and explore the process from start to finish.

What is 3D Printing?

The process of 3D printing involves the manufacturing of additives that creates a physical product or object from an on-screen digital design. There are many different materials and technologies you can use to make a 3D print; however, they are all based on the same principle: turning a digital model into a three-dimensional physical object, layer by layer.

Introduction of 3d Printing in the Oil and Gas Industry

With the healthcare and aerospace industries increasingly utilising Additive Manufacturing (AM), the technology is becoming more and more accepted within the oil and gas industry. Reports suggest that AM oil and gas revenue will reach $450 million by 2021 with this figure expected to triple to $1.5 billion by 2025.

Positive Impacts 3D Printing in the Oil and Gas Industry

Imagine the situation, you are working on an offshore drilling rig or an off the grid onshore wellsite. An important piece of equipment has a vital component broken with no spare readily available to replace it with. Getting hold of a replacement is going to cost time and a lot of money in an industry which requires a quick turn around from production to final product. With the ability to manufacture AM technology on site, repairs are able to be created for the fraction of the price in a much shorter amount of time.

Furthermore, 3D printing improves the acceleration of product development. With AM’s to produce prototypes quickly, companies are able to develop and finalise designs much quicker, thus accelerating the design process and allowing businesses to react smarter to new and emerging market opportunities.

Fast prototyping is of has proven to be very valuable to the oil and gas industry. It is often possible to employ agile 3D printing technology to make the development cycle of oil and gas components more rapid. This in turn will reduce the time it takes to proceed with full production. Fast prototyping allows those in the oil and gas industry to engage in multiple design cycles and quickly test design concepts.

Disadvantages of 3D Printing in the Oil and Gas Industry

As the 3D printing innovation appears in the oil and gas industry, the need for input from field workers is essential. Successful 3D printing in oil and gas requires an initial stage of identifying which parts and components would benefit from the significant advantages of additive manufacturing.

Even as 3D printing injects efficiencies into parts manufacturing and distribution, the AM process also raises legal and regulatory concerns. To maintain demanding performance and safety standards, industry certification of 3D printing materials is a potential hurdle. It is challenging to complete the transition from using additive manufacturing for prototyping to using it in the efficient production of end-use parts, which must meet robust performance and safety standards.

General Electric (GE) explain that traditionally, manufacturers either owned intellectual property or licensed it, and they produced components at centralized facilities. Using digital data to print parts at disparate locations raises concerns over the proper use of intellectual property. One way to deal with intellectual property is to use the “iTunes” approach. Just as an artist licenses the right to download his/her music, so too could oil service companies license the use of the CAD data required to print replacement parts.

The Future

It has been predicted that, in the longer term, the 3D printing emphasis in the oil and gas industry will shift towards more serial manufacturing: producing the same object repeatedly and the opposite of agile manufacturing. Serial AM already is a reality in sectors such as aerospace and health care. This will also ultimately reduce the reproduction cost for machine parts making them readily available on site, should there be a break down.

WJF Technical Support within the Oil and Gas Industry

As a company, WJF Technical Support are committed to working within the Oil and Gas sector in the North Sea. Working closely and supporting a number of clients by sourcing and placing technical staff in both contract and permanent positions. With particular strength and knowledge in the drilling, completion, well intervention and pipeline and process sectors, our aim is to become the first stop for engineering and technical personnel across the Oil and Gas industry. Engineering and technical support staff with WJF Technical Support, are chosen for their professionalism, competency and flexible approach to completing a project.