3D printing and scanning are starting to have a significant influence on the energy industry. This includes the design, prototyping and production of energy equipment, and providing essential quality control methods and support.
The UK energy sector is a significant contributor to the national economy. The trade association Energy UK reports that this sector created £86.5bn in economic activity in 2018 and delivered £13.1bn of investment.
This sector is in the vanguard of developing new design and production processes, which makes it the right match for 3D printing and scanning.
Oil and Gas and 3D Printing
The twin challenges the oil and gas industry face are:
- To meet a growing, worldwide energy demand, and
- Reduce carbon emissions.
Therefore, the development of news ideas and concepts for transforming how we produce energy go hand in hand with generating and processing energy.
Royal Dutch Shell has been using 3D printing technology for several years now to support the manufacturing equipment it uses in oil and gas production.
3D printing technology allows them to create accurate, scale model prototypes, to help improve both design and construction of equipment.
Deep water activity is an essential part of energy exploration, and Shell has used 3D printing in the design phase of its deepest oil and gas project, in the Gulf of Mexico.
Other aspects of 3D printing in oil and gas involve its integration into manufacturing supply chains, to create various components.
The oil and gas industry is traditionally risk averse, so take-up of 3D printing has not been rapid. But there has been a steady growth of 3D printing use in this sector.
This is a technology that continues to advance, and, as such, it will be able to provide solutions to future production needs for oil and gas.
For example, researchers are looking at the application of laser metal deposition in remanufacturing ageing weld components such as shafts, valves and pumps.
3D Scanning for Energy Product Development
Energy conversion equipment is large and complex. Its design and the quality control in its manufacture are essential in its functionality and overall performance.
Using 3D scanning for advanced measurement applications enables designers and engineers to capture vital data quickly and accurately.
This applies to oil and gas and nuclear energy, but also to newer forms of energy generation, including wind and solar.
3D scanning can provide detailed rendering of topographic and geometrical details for installing power facilities, for example.
It is also extremely valuable for reverse engineering, reconstructing equipment where original plans or drawings have been lost.
Another critical element where 3D scanning supports the energy industry is in quality control.
Continuous improvement drives advances in engineering for energy production, and quality control is more vital than ever.
3D scanning equipment can measure, accurately, the parameters of equipment when under stress, and gather relevant data.
It is more accurate than manual measurement, and can obtain 3D data for complex parts accurately and rapidly.
The Role of 3D Scanning in Numerical Simulation
Numerical simulation is a computer research method that can simulate physical processes by running calculations that are based on precise mathematical models.
This is an important means of gaining vital data in the research and development of energy equipment.
It is a powerful analytical tool that can solve complex engineering problems, involving multiple disciplines, including mechanics, physics and computation.
The two most common applications of numerical simulation in design and product development are:
3D scanners provide the essential information these methods rely on to support engineers and manufacturers of energy equipment and products.
How 3D Scanning Supports Solar Energy Projects
Enhanced technology is driving the diversity and growth of the energy sector. 3D scanning can support the development of solar energy in various ways.
In renewable energy projects, 3D scanning helps reduce the cost of design, and of the development time of projects, leading to more rapid implementation.
At the earlier stages of a solar energy project, 3D scanning cuts down the time required to survey large areas. Typically, solar projects will cover wide expanses involving hundreds of hectares.
This technology also assists in positioning solar projects properly, so that they will benefit from the maximum amount of sunlight, to ensure a high return.
At this planning stage, 3D scanning can help optimise positioning without the need to remove physical elements in the landscape.
By providing highly accurate data for solar energy project planning, 3D scanning ensures developers can make informed decisions, prior to committing physical resources to projects.
Operational Efficiency Drives Change
The operational efficiencies that 3D printing and scanning technology support are helping to drive change in the energy industry.
In oil and gas, 3D printing enables accurate prototyping and testing, and is working towards a greater level of recycling of components and materials.
In renewables, 3D scanning supports rapid and accurate surveying when preparing and planning large scale projects.
3D technology is highly efficient, giving engineers the means to optimise designs for efficiency, while producing less waste.
Central Scanning supports the energy industry with a range of 3D scanning and printing equipment and services, including:
- Zeiss and Artec 3D scanners
- Reverse engineering for CAD projects
- CAD to parts inspections
- 3D printing.
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