Nanfang Additive Manufacturing Technology Co., headquartered in Foshan, China, has signed a contract with the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) Tubular Goods Research Institute (TGRI). In the terms of the contract, Nanfang and TGRI will investigate whether electron beam manufacturing (EBM) can be used to make components for oil and gas pipelines.
A nuclear effort
According to reports, Nanfang previously completed a prototype pressure vessel cylinder for a project with the China Nuclear Power Research Institute.
Smooth and polished, the part appears to have been made by a combination of metal 3D printing and CNC milling, and weighed around 400 kg in total.
The machine used to make this nuclear component is capable of printing an area of 5.6 meters in diameter and 9 meters in height.
The new project, with TGRI, is a commission to create new, application-specific materials for EBM and apply them to the creation of thick-walled, three-way pipe fittings.
EBM v SLM
The advantages of EBM for pipe production is that the technology, unlike laser-based additive technologies, does not create residual stresses in a printed part. It also reduces the need for support structures, which would be counter productive to cylindrical parts.
GE company Arcam is a leading authority on this technology, which it calls Electron Beam Melting, having worked with EBM now for over two decades.
Additive in oil & gas
Within the same sector, GE Oil & Gas has been applying 3D printing to its nozzle production line since 2016. End burners for gas turbine combustion chambers are made using additive manufacturing, like the famous fuel nozzle.
Recently, Australia’s Aurora Labs signed a oil & gas, power and maritime 3D printing certification agreement with global quality assurance and risk management company DNV GL.
In an experimental sense, 3D printed pipes are also the focus of the Horizon 2020 funded BADGER Project that seeks to automate construction of gas/water supply and telecoms connection.
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Featured image shows an oil and gas production plant. Photo by John Ciccarelli for the California Bureau of Land Management