The US Air Force (USAF) has invested in a 3D printer capable of producing spare parts for its Strategic Automated Command Control System (SACCS).
When a supplier stopped manufacturing a red fault indicator lens cap to cover the lights on the SACCS system, the USAF purchased a 3D printer to manufacture its own replacement. By leveraging the technology to produce the first cap, the USAF recovered the cost of the printer and scanner and saved more than $4,000.
“This strategy is saving the Department of Defense thousands of dollars each time the part fails,” said Col. Brian Golden, National Airborne Operations Center and 595th Command and Control Group Commander.
3D printing service provider 3D Metalforge has successfully tested three different 3D printed parts on board ConocoPhillips Polar Tankers’ Endeavour oil tanker.
As part of a pioneering project, 3D Metalforge worked with ConocoPhillips, engineering services provider Sembcorp Marine and classification society American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) to fabricate, test, and install 3D printed parts on-board the Endeavor oil tanker, which were in operation for six months.
The parts have now been retrieved and inspected by the Endeavour crew and ABS, and have been validated to be in good working condition.
“We are delighted with the performance of the parts and the successful completion of the project,” said Patrick Ryan, ABS Senior Vice President, Global Engineering and Technology. “It’s an important step forward for a technology that certainly has a significant role to play in the future of the marine industry.
Shell, the British-Dutch multinational Oil and Gas Company, is leveraging spare parts 3D printing to foray into digital warehouse. The company aims to focus on the revolutionary 3D printing technology to optimise its repair and replacement strategies and ultimately enable a digital warehouse approach to spare part management.
Shell believes the technology can reduce the costs, delivery time and the carbon footprint of spare parts and so it is collaborating with industry leaders to push the innovation of 3D printing for the energy sector.
Shell’s in-house 3D printing capability started in 2011 with a metal laser-printing machine to fabricate unique testing equipment for laboratory experiments at the Shell Technology Centre Amsterdam (STCA). Today, Shell has about 15 polymer, ceramic, and metal printers located at its technology centres in Amsterdam and Bangalore.
The oil and gas industry is embracing new technologies to save time and costs and, most recently, to reduce the carbon footprint of its supply chain as the energy sector is under increased pressure to reward shareholders while helping to fight climate change. Along with artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital twins, and robotics, the world’s biggest oil and gas firms and oilfield services providers are betting on 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, to streamline operations, cut costs and save time, and reduce emissions from spare parts manufacturing.
Over the past decade, some of the biggest oil and gas firms in the world have turned to 3D printing to procure parts and create digital warehouses to procure and manage the supply of necessary equipment.
One such example is supermajor Shell (2.60%), which believes that additive manufacturing technology can reduce the costs, delivery time, and the carbon footprint of spare parts. Shell has ongoing projects with other industry players, including Baker Hughes (3.06%), to push the innovation of 3D printing for the energy sector, say Nick van Keulen, Supply Chain Digitalisation Manager and Angeline Goh, 3D Printing Technology Manager at Shell.
Replique, a venture born out of chemical company BASF’s business incubator Chemovator, has partnered with German home appliance manufacturer Miele to produce and ship 3D printed accessories via its decentralized production network.
Through the partnership, Replique’s 3D printing platform will be integrated into Miele’s online shop to enable the company to provide its customers with new 3D printed accessories and spare parts both quickly and cost-effectively.
The partners are supposedly the first to implement a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) for the 3D printing of polymer parts for food contact applications, beginning with an initial three accessories – a coffee clip, borehole cleaner, and a valuable separator for vacuum cleaner attachments.
Alstom, a France-based rolling stock manufacturer, has adopted FDM 3D printing technology from Stratasys to streamline spare part production for the transport sector.
One of the company’s most recent projects involved producing a set of emergency spare parts for Algeria’s Sétif Tramways, and additive manufacturing was the star of the show. Leveraging Stratasys F370 3D printers, Alstom was able to drastically slash lead times and save Sétif Tramways thousands in manufacturing costs, reducing downtime in the city’s 14-mile transport network.
“The agility that 3D printing gives us is critical for Alstom strategically as a business,” states Aurélien Fussel, Additive Manufacturing Programme Manager at Alstom. “Where our customers depend on spare parts to maintain operations, having this in-house production capability means we can bypass our traditional supply chain and respond quickly and cost-effectively with a solution to their needs.”
Additive manufacturing has come to the forefront of the Army’s attention as the service looks for ways to quickly reproduce parts without needing to continuously rely on industry.
In 2019, the service released a new policy directive that outlined its goals to expand its 3D printing processes and established an additive manufacturing center of excellence at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois.
Maj. Gen. K. Todd Royar, commanding general of Army Aviation and Missile Command, said on the aviation side, he has been using the directive as a baseline for the command’s 3D printing efforts and then incorporating additional standards to ensure that it can meet Federal Aviation Administration regulations as well.
General Motors announced the opening of the 15,000-square-foot Additive Industrialization Center, dedicated to productionizing 3D printing technology in the automotive industry.
General Motors recently opened its new, 15,000-square-foot Additive Industrialization Center (AIC), dedicated to 3D printing technology in the automotive industry. The AIC is the capstone of GM’s expertise and increased investment in 3D printing over the last several years.
“The core component of GM’s transformation is becoming a more agile, innovative company, and 3D printing will play a critical role in that mission,” says Audley Brown, GM director of additive design and materials engineering. “Compared to traditional processes, 3D printing can produce parts in a matter of days versus weeks or months, at a significantly lower cost.”
It’s been quite a year.
One of struggle, one of anguish, one of a technology that may have previously failed to live up to such lofty promise, perhaps now finding its role in the manufacturing landscape.
Though there were plenty of businesses in the 3D printing industry that had significant issues to encounter – GE in its AM-related goodwill impairment charges or Stratasys and 3D Systems in their workforce reductions – the technology itself comes out of 2020 with an enhanced reputation.
It was responsible for millions of parts produced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to alleviate slightly the pressure that medical professionals and procurement personnel were under, while allowing manufacturers to pivot from what they typically produced to what, in that moment, we needed them to.
After forming a collaboration to deliver maritime spare parts using 3D printing, thyssenkrupp and Wilhelmsen have onboarded Yinson to their 3D Printing customer program. Services provided will include solving pain points such as long lead time, part obsolescence and poor part performance.
Thyssenkrupp and Wilhelmsen are collaborating on leveraging on thyssenkrupp’s deep expertise in AM alongside Wilhelmsen’s in-depth maritime expertise and direct ongoing experience in understanding the needs of vessel fleet managers.
Based on current data, maritime fleets spend approximately $13 billion a year on spare parts. With 50% of these vessels being older than 15 years, the availability of parts are limited. This makes the fulfillment of orders for maritime spare parts costly and complicated, and in fact, supply chain overheads involved may oftentimes far outstrip the cost of the part itself.