Materials Science

3D printing becomes more practical and affordable for oil & gas operations

Imagine that you work on a remote offshore drilling rig or a far-flung well site on land. A vital metal part has broken and no spare is readily available. Getting a replacement can be costly both in terms of time and money. That may no longer be the case less than a decade from now.
3D printing should dramatically decrease the time and expense of sourcing a replacement part, according to AdditiveNow, a partnership between the Australia-based metal 3D printing firm Aurora Labs and the Advisian Digital consulting unit of WorleyParsons. The venture is developing printing technology that it contends will make 3D printing much more practical and affordable for oil and gas operations.
“It’s very early days for 3D printing being used offshore or even onshore in oil and gas,” John Bolto, General Manager of AdditiveNow. “Our reason for getting into this business is to be first mover.”
Currently, virtualizing spare parts for oil and gas applications is far from cost-effective. 3D printers are expensive and slow, and the economics are difficult to make work unless it’s a very high-added-value solution. Next year, Aurora Labs will put a new type of 3D printer onto the market that will produce objects approximately 10 times faster than existing technology, said Bolto. He contends the increase in speed will make the economics of 3D printing much more attractive. He explained that, with existing technology, the amortized cost of the printer and powder represent anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of a printed part’s cost.