Guest Editorial: Can Additive Manufacturing Breathe New Life Into Aging Assets?
- Stephen Fitzpatrick (University of Strathclyde)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 2018
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 14 - 15
- 2018. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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Additive layer manufacturing technology has gained prominence in the aerospace sector and is being used for the rapid production of prototype parts. Its credibility has quite literally “taken off” and is now used to build in-flight production components for aircraft. Its applications are being adopted in other sectors such as medical and automotive as a potentially faster and more economical alternative to traditional manufacturing methods for certain applications. Though it offers huge potential to the oil and gas arena, its uptake so far has been limited. The industry’s risk-averse culture, lack of infrastructure, and stringent standards have been cited by leaders as barriers to adoption.
Yet, as experienced in other industries, the technical and economic benefits far outweigh the obstacles. The oil and gas industry’s growing focus on operational efficiency in today’s low-price climate is slowly driving change and a realization that the challenges are not insurmountable.
Two main groups of technologies can be of benefit to the oil and gas industry: powder bed fusion and direct energy deposition. Both use a diverse range of metals in wire and powder form, which can be fused together using lasers, electron beams, and electric arcs.
Asset Life Extension
For aging oil and gas assets, replacement components may be difficult to source, require a long lead time to manufacture, and incur significant expense to produce. But the direct energy deposition additive technique called laser metal deposition could be the answer to remanufacture difficult-to-weld oil and gas components, such as those made of corrosion-resistant steels and heat-resistant super alloys. Currently, no remanufacturing procedures exist for some high-value components, but by applying additive material to a specific area that is worn, you can extend the life of a component and actually increase its functional performance. This could play a key role in enabling oil and gas opera-tors to reinstate their existing old equipment, reduce lead time, allow options to extend maintenance schedule cycles, and increase functional performance.
Laser metal deposition is a powder additive manufacturing process in which powders are conveyed through a nozzle and a laser is used to melt the layer of powder into a desired shape. This process offers many benefits for the oil and gas sector and, in particular, for remanufacturing applications. It has very fast cooling rates that create a very fine microstructure. There is also very low dilution and heat-affected zone into the substrate material, meaning that thinner clad layers can be applied while still ensuring that the clad composition is achieved. A secondary benefit to lower dilution and a small heat-affected zone is that there will be shallower residual stress profiles, meaning very little distortion of components. This process can be applied very accurately, and fine features can be achieved with minimal post-process machining. Alloy powders can also be mixed together to create new alloys that can be functionally graded to obtain tailored properties.
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