Building Trust in Additive Manufacturing, Layer by Layer

Additive manufacturing can alleviate and avoid long, expensive production shutdowns and reduce supply chain carbon footprints. Key to unlocking this potential is building trust in “printed” parts.

Printer parts of additive manufacturing
Fig 3—Building trust in “printed” parts is key to unlocking the potential of additive manufacturing. Source: DNV.

Nearly three-quarters (71%) of senior oil and gas professionals have sharpened their focus on digitalization over the past year, according to a 2021 survey by DNV (DNV Outlook). The pandemic has not only increased attention on how digital solutions can make organizations more adaptable and cost efficient, it has also forced companies to discard the normal rules and become more open to change.

While data collaboration, cloud-based applications, and remote surveillance top the investment priorities for the year ahead, a growing number of respondents (7%) see additive manufacturing (AM)—the industry equivalent of 3D printing—on their spending list.

As an emerging technology, AM uses 3D model data to fabricate parts, enabling, among other benefits, significant cost and time savings in contrast to many traditional manufacturing methods, where the final parts are machined out of a pre-made form. Its purpose is to alleviate and avoid long, expensive production shutdowns and reduce supply chain carbon footprints.

Building trust in “printed” parts is key to unlocking this potential.

Rapid, Reliable Reproduction

The global AM market is expected to reach $350 billion by 2035 (DailyAlts 2021). The technology also has the potential to be enhanced by—or in the other direction, augment—other digital solutions, given it is based on a 3D file. Though accelerating at a slower rate compared to the aerospace and automotive industries, there is increased pressure to shorten the development cycle of components for the oil, gas, and renewables sectors and perform rapid prototyping and testing of new, more sustainable concepts.

New business models will be developed and a new way of thinking adopted by design engineers to fully utilize its potential (DNV Technology Outlook 2030). To support the digital transformation of the energy industry, DNV, which has been actively investigating the potential of AM since 2014, has unveiled a new service specification document to ensure AM products, assets, and systems are safe, economical, and efficient.

DNVGL-SE-0568 “Qualification of Additive Manufacturing Service Providers, Manufacturers, and Parts,” is part of a portfolio of six different AM-related standards and recommended practices (Fig. 1).

DNVGL-SE-0568 ensures AM products, assets, and systems are safe, economic, and efficient.
Fig. 1—DNVGL-SE-0568 ensures AM products, assets, and systems are safe, economic, and efficient. Source: DNV.

The standards will define the authority’s qualification scheme and provide the basis for obtaining and retaining statements and certificates for the endorsement of

  • Facilities and digital products/services.
  • Qualification of manufacturers.
  • Build processes.
  • Parts and part families.
  • AM machine(s) and equipment.
  • AM personnel.

The document has been developed in accordance with the industry standard DNVGL-ST-B203, created for the additive manufacturing of metallic parts in the oil and gas, energy, digital, and heavy-industry sectors.

First-Ever AM Quality Certification

In May this year, DNV awarded Protolabs EMEA, a digital manufacturer, “Qualification of Manufacturer Certification” for its production facility in Germany. The company is the first certified manufacturer using powder-bed-fusion (PBF) technology for energy applications (Fig. 2).

Metal parts being 3D printed
Fig. 2—Metal parts being 3D printed using Protolabs’ DMLS additive manufacturing service. Source: DNV.

PBF methods use either a laser or electron beam to melt and fuse material powder together and are ideal for high-resolution and geometrical accuracy. This certification work includes a build-process qualification using a particular metal feedstock material.

In accordance with DNVGL-ST-B203, a technical evaluation of Protolabs’ manufacturing facilities was performed and audits of its processes were verified. The service specification DNVGL-SE-0568 provided the basis for obtaining and retaining DNV statements and certificates for the endorsement of facilities and digital products/services, qualification of manufacturers, build processes, parts and part families, AM machines and equipment, and AM personnel.

By using the superalloy Inconel 718—a high-strength, corrosion-resistant nickel chromium—combined with Protolabs’ expertise in direct-metal-laser sintering (DMLS) and the certification it has achieved, the company can produce complex geometries for parts that are exposed to harsh environments with the further confidence and trust of the oil and gas sector.

Building Trust, Layer by Layer

The adoption of AM in hazardous industries such as oil and gas faces a wide range of challenges; trust is key to overcoming these obstacles.

Without standardization or guidelines, printed parts and components could raise the risk of unexpected or premature failures due to the inherent variation of mechanical and metallurgical properties associated with the AM parts. Likewise, printed parts or components that were not properly identified and tested during the qualification and/or certification process could cause unexpected functional performance behaviors. As such, this could increase the probability of overall material costs rising compared to the traditional manufacturing route.

To enable AM technologies’ widespread use and to help it fulfill its potential in disrupting operations and maintenance activities, there needs to be a greater level of confidence in the products manufactured.

First and foremost, the AM service specification provides supply chains with assurance that the equipment for manufacturing printed parts meets high standards of quality and integrity. Furthermore, it ensures the materials used to produce AM parts are of the right quality for the supply chain. This will give greater credibility to gain the support and buy-in of end users.

In 2018, DNV opened its own dedicated Global Additive Manufacturing Technology Centre in Singapore. Supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board, it serves as an incubator and testbed focusing on assurance and advisory services for the maritime, offshore, and energy industries.

One of its objectives is to develop competence standards for qualification, certification, and training in AM.

Step-Change Technology

AM is expected to revolutionize the way products are designed, manufactured, and distributed across all industries. According to the latest Wohler’s Report, the industry itself expanded by 7.5% to nearly $12.8 billion in 2020, despite the impact of global COVID-19 restrictions. While growth was down considerably compared to average growth of 27.4% over the previous 10 years, there was an emergence of less-established companies in the market (Wohlers Associates 2021).

To further integrate this innovation globally, DNV has initiated several joint-industry projects (JIPs) in areas such as the certification and qualification of AM for reconditioning old parts or creating on-demand new spare parts, and for the fabrication of large-scale structural parts (Fig. 3 above).

Collaborative initiatives have included Sembcorp Marine, Maritime Port Authority, Anglo Eastern shipping, Wartsila, Baker Hughes, Carpenter, Chevron, Equinor, Shell, Total, BP, and others.

In the very near future, AM technology will enable new supply chains and on-site 3D printing of spare parts, adding value in many areas of the oil, gas, and renewables industries that have yet to be explored. For instance, we’ll see a reduction of lead time, weight, and part count, with greater efficiency of components, reduced waste, and lower emissions.

This game-changing innovation is also expected to enable novel designs with high complexity, new repair methods, and the use of unconventional or novel materials to support day-to-day operations. To forge and transform the role of oil and gas in the energy transition in the coming decades, the uptake of AM and the wider benefits of digitalization will be crucial.

For Further Reading

DNVGL-SE-0568 Qualification of Additive Manufacturing Service Providers, Manufacturers, and Parts.

Turmoil and Transformation: The Outlook for the Oil and Gas Industry in 2021. DNV.

Venture Capital: AM Ventures Floats First-Ever Fund Focused on 3D Printing. DailyAlts, 8 March 2021.

Technology Outlook 2030: New Materials for Manufacturing Processes. DNV.

Wohlers Report 2021.Wohlers Associates Inc.

Brice Le Gallo is regional director, energy systems, at DNV, APAC and director of the DNV Global Additive Manufacturing Technology Centre of Excellence in Singapore. He has more than 18 years’ experience in the oil and gas and maritime industries in technical, research and development, business development, management, and leadership positions. He joined DNV in 2013 and currently is based in Singapore, with more than 15 years of expertise with Asian markets and industrial trends including energy transition and digitalization.

Le Gallo holds a master’s degree in naval architecture and offshore engineering from Ecole Centrale Marseille and an MBA from Kedge Business School and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China).

Sastry Yagnanna Kandukuri is senior principal specialist for additive manufacturing at DNV. He has more than 20 years of diverse experience in the maritime, oil and gas, and manufacturing sectors. He joined DNV Norway in 2007 and currently is based in Singapore. For the past 3 years, he has led the AM Innovation programs at the DNV Global Additive Manufacturing Technology Centre of Excellence.

Kandukuri holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in metallurgical and materials engineering and a master’s degree in computer science and management from universities in India. He also holds a PhD degree in the AM/3D printing domain from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium.