The Oil and Gas Industry Embracing Additive Manufacturing

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Additive manufacturing continues to break barriers and prove to the industry that it’s moving beyond prototyping and into the realm of end-use parts production. Lloyd’s Register officially announced the first certification of a part produced with additive manufacturing (AM) for the oil and gas industry. This could have a monumental impact on how the oil and gas industry manufactures its components.

Surrey-based Safer Plug Company (SPC) designed the 3D printed titanium gateway manifold for pipelines. It was manufactured by 3T RPD and they used powder bed fusion to build the component. Lloyd’s Register oversaw the entire process to ensure quality and performance.

“This project is a great example of how innovative companies are making great use of additive manufacturing’s benefits, Amelia Stead, LR AM Surveyor and the primary technical lead on the project stated. She continued to explain, “This part would have been nearly impossible to produce using traditional manufacturing techniques due to its complex internal channels.”

Additive manufacturing provides manufacturers with a host of options that were never available with conventional manufacturing methods. Manufacturers can design complex geometries and even combine components to print and entire part, rather than fasten together individual components later on throughout the manufacturing process. Small, internal chambers and shapes that would simply not be possible with traditional subtractive manufacturing can be manufactured for the first time. The fact that SPC and 3T RPD were able to be certified by Lloyd’s Register for a critical component in the oil and gas industry proves that this technology has taken impressive leaps forward.

Lloyd’s Register guides manufacturers through the 3D printing process using their own framework to certify components and ensure material standards. They are also expected to certify the next 10 manifolds produced by SPC and 3T RPD and SPC is currently working on a Type Approval certificate. This would allow the companies to produce the 3D printed manifolds on demand along with the pipeline isolation tools. Being able to produce these parts on demand could greatly increase its availability and could lead to even more oil and gas institutions opting for the 3D printed components.

“From an industry and customer perspective this certification provides added confidence in parts produced by this new technology,” said Dr. Claire Ruggeiro, Director Innovation, Technical and Quality for Lloyd’s Register. “This will undoubtedly accelerate the adoption of AM into the oil and gas mainstream. The work we have done with TWI and research undertaken by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation-funded PhD students has provided the robust basis for this certification and we look forward to further building our expertise and experience together with the industry pioneers like SPC.”

3D printing has come so far since its inception in the 1980’s. Even over the past few years, this technology has taken dramatic steps toward becoming a reliable and economically viable option for components that would have once been manufactured with traditional methods. There’s no stopping the progression of this incredible technology and manufacturers should begin investing the time and resources to learn about the capabilities it has to offer. Be sure to check back soon for even more additive manufacturing developments and their impact on the industry.