3D Printing: The Benefits Add Up

  • Pictures

Additive Manufacturing (popularly known as 3D printing) is the technology that builds objects layer by layer from a digital model. That is the opposite of conventional Subtractive Manufacturing, where the raw material in the form of blocks is machined and processed to achieve the final shape, after wasting significant amount of material. In AM, raw material in the form of powder or filaments, is added layer by layer as per the shape of the component with minimal wastage.

Process Flow

A typical AM process consists of the following steps:

  • Creation of a virtual CAD model in a 3D modelling environment
  • Creation of a STL/G-Code file of the model in a Slicer Software
  • Printing the component using a 3D printer
  • Measurement and data analysis

Technologies Used in Additive Manufacturing:

  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)                                                                                                                                                - In FDM, molten thermoplastic material extruded through a nozzle is deposited on the build plate surface in a pre-determined manner to create a 3D component.
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)                                                                                                                                                    - In SLS, a moving laser beam sinters heat-fusible powders one layer at a time. After each layer is completed, a new layer of powder is added across the surface. Layer by layer, the powders are bonded by the laser beam into a solid mass to form the 3D printed part.

AM Applications in Valves

  • Customised Solutions - AM can be an effective way to create prototypes as well as products with complex shapes and low batch volume
  • Control Valve - AM can be used to print control valve cages and trims - faster and more cost effectively compared to traditional manufacturing methods. AM can also be used to manufacture balls with intricate shapes in the flow bore.
  • Hydraulic Valves - Significant cost reduction and economies are achieved by using AM for complex-shaped manifolds

Future Opportunities at L&T Valves

Additive Manufacturing is in the process of transitioning to a mature technology with myriad applications in manufacturing and aftermarket.

API has initiated work on API 20S ‘Qualification of Additively Manufactured Metallic Materials for Use in the Petroleum and Natural Gas Industries’. This standard will be a significant gamechanger in making AM mainstream in the Oil & Gas industry.

There is also a lot of concern about the protection of product patents and copyrights. The wide availability of desktop 3D printers will make it possible to produce the designs anywhere in the world, making it for difficult for companies to safeguard their intellectual property right. This is an interesting debate and attorneys are working hard to safeguard their clients against such infringements.

The technology and the industry are evolving rapidly, and the future looks very exciting.