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There’s no doubt anymore that 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is here to stay, but what does that mean for metal fabrication? While the production of the 3D printed handgun shows that additive manufactured components can withstand extreme stress, how do we determine which printers and materials meet the specifications without worrying  about the whole mess blowing up in our faces? A joint industry project launched by UK-based Lloyd’s Register Energy is inviting and working with worldwide companies to form the first standards for the additive manufacturing industry.  Link

 

Claus Myllerup, of Lloyds mentions “It’s testament to our drive to bring together companies who understand the benefit of working together to deliver innovative and ground breaking solutions in a step towards digital manufacturing. Together with international and national companies, we can work beyond the constraints of today’s conventional manufacturing process to find real innovative solutions in a strategic and collaborative way. Additive manufacturing is just one of several innovations that we are looking at.”

 

Additive manufacturing is projected to grow by up to 390% over the next seven years, causing a significant effect on many industries including the metals industry. With the current joint industry project, Lloyd’s is focusing on potential effects on the energy industry, having recently compiled survey results that suggest additive manufacturing will have major impacts in oil and gas industries over the next five years.

 

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Because these industries have had significant spills and environmental issues in the past, there is strong scrutiny on the safety of components in petroleum product retrieval. With the metal fabrication so strongly involved in providing high-quality, safe components for the petroleum industry, how do we develop additive manufactured components that meet that industry’s stringent safety requirements without having to extensively text every component that’s produced? Standardization.

 

The relative youth of additive manufacturing means there are no serious tests in place dealing with long-term performance. There have been some issues with consistency and quality control in the past, as 3D printers have moved from art to engineering over the years.  Even the above-mentioned handgun example required significant finishing work to function properly, and assembly of the finished pieces still requires engineers and assembly personnel.

 

Claire Ruggiero, Lloyd’s VP for technical inspection services notes, “The issues faced by manufacturers using additive manufacturing can be overcome through collaboration and working together. Pulling together key parties from material and machine suppliers, manufacturers, end users, and research organizations, we can collectively consider the risks and control measures from different perspectives, ensuring that all aspects are covered. We are confident this JIP will begin to help shape and guide best-practice standards in additive manufacturing.”

 

Myllerup also mentions, “Our invitation for companies involved in the energy industry to join in our JIP programmes can support and fund projects from concept to commercialisation and introduce game-changing technologies across the energy industry, at any time Lloyd’s Register Energy has dozens of JIPs underway which provide a rapid route to innovation. The best JIPs are ones in which certifier, manufacturer, designer, and operator all work together to achieve a mutual goal of developing a ‘market driven’ design, that is future proofed as far as possible,” highlighted Myllerup.

 

It’s this level of integration into the standards development process that helps metal fabricators stay on top of the newest developments and maximize their market share. What’s your opinion of the standardization process and additive manufacturing in general? We’d love to see your comments below as you join the discussion, or stay updated on this topic and many more through our website.

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