MX3D, team and Tiat reveal 3D printed pipe clamp


Above: The 3D printed industrial pipe clamp / Image source: MX3D

MX3D, a Robotic Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) company, has successfully completed the printing of an industrial pipeline clamp. Clamps like these are used in the chemical and oil and gas industries to prevent incidents and extend the life of a facility before maintenance is required.

The WAAM Clamp is manufactured and tested in collaboration with Team Industries and TiaT, two companies with extensive experience in the maintenance, testing and (emergency) repair of complex industrial pipe systems. The BWI (Belgium Welding Institute) took over the material testing and supported Lloyd’s Register MX3D with the certification process.

Short lead times are critical in the oil and gas industry as both reducing production downtime and reducing environmental, human and safety risks are critical. The current lead time for pipeline repairs can be 2 to 3 weeks with a potential loss of value of several 100,000 to 1 million EUR per day. Current clamp repair processes are typically based on CNC milling, specialized manual labor, or a combination of both. Each of these processes has its downsides, as CNC milling involves a high level of material scrap (on average> 80% of the starting material) and specialized labor is becoming scarcer.

As part of the WAAM Clamp project, a typical repair part for pipelines was researched and manufactured with hybrid WAAM. This technique offers an intelligent production solution by combining the advantages of traditional manufacturing (such as precision machining) with the advantages of arc additive manufacturing (such as freedom of shape, high deposition rates and minimal material waste).

The consortium has succeeded in achieving a high level of security for the WAAM terminal. The BWI has tested the materials and confirmed that the printed material meets the key requirements of TEAM Industries for this material. The MX3D M1 Metal AM system, facility and procedures have been qualified by Lloyds Register. TiaT performed non-destructive testing such as ultrasonic testing (UT), penetrant testing (PT), and radiographic testing (RT) that showed no relevant defects. TEAM Industries carried out a pressure test which ran without errors up to the maximum pressure of the test system (ie> 60 bar).

ASME IIA SA-516-70, a type of steel commonly used in the chemical and oil and gas industries, was used as the base and printing material. The requirements for the mechanical properties of this material were determined by its most common application: pressure vessels that operate at medium to low temperatures. The destructive tests were carried out according to ASTM A370. The results of the destructive test showed that the printed material, even in its most unfavorable direction, has mechanical properties that are similar or better to the base material and thus meet the ASME requirements.

The project introduces Hybrid WAAM, a new approach to counter two well-known disadvantages of additive manufacturing, namely the need for post-processing and precision. While large-scale additive manufacturing can produce parts very quickly, traditional manufacturing techniques can sometimes be even faster for making simple shapes. Conventional techniques can also achieve a higher level of precision than large format AM. By adopting a hybrid approach, the project consortium used 3D printing only for the most complex geometric parts of the clamp, while using traditional manufacturing for the simpler parts, saving valuable time.

Hybrid WAAM has several advantages over traditional technologies such as forging, CNC milling, and hand welding (which require specialist welders) for the oil and gas industry. Compared to forging, WAAM has a shorter production lead time because it can produce locally, on demand and at remote locations. Compared to CNC milling, WAAM has significantly less material scrap due to the use of an additive manufacturing process instead of a subtractive process. After all, compared to manual welding, the manufacturer is less dependent on the availability of special welders, since robots can manufacture around the clock. By including pre-built off-the-shelf components in the WAAM process (i.e. hybrid WAAM), each of the benefits described above is increased by reducing lead time and manufacturing time compared to regular WAAM.

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