Industry Insights

Siemens 3D prints part for nuclear power plant

The largest manufacturing and electronics company in Europe, Siemens announces it has 3D printed a replacement part for a nuclear power plant in Slovenia.

The part was produced for the Krško nuclear power plant in Vrbina, Slovenia. According to Siemens, the power plant provides power for one quarter of Slovenia and 15% of neighboring Croatia.

This is a significant accomplishment not just for Siemens but for the 3D printing industry as a whole because implementing this part required undergoing stringent certification and qualification processes spanning several months. The news further validates  3D printing as an advanced manufacturing technique.

From left to right, the "original, obsolete water impeller, Siemens' 3D printed prototype and the resulting 3D-printed replacement installed and operating in Krško NPP in Slovenia." Photo via Siemens.
From left to right, the “original, obsolete water impeller, Siemens’ 3D printed prototype and the resulting 3D-printed replacement installed and operating in Krško NPP in Slovenia.” Photo via Siemens.

The 3D printed part

The part in question is a metallic impeller for a fire protection pump. The impeller is 108mm in diameter and in constant operation. Krško nuclear power plant has been operational since 1981 with this part, however the impeller is no longer manufactured. The nuclear power plant therefore required Siemens’ additive manufacturing expertise to recreate the component.

The 3D print was produced at Siemens additive manufacturing production facility in Finspång, Sweden using Selective Laser Melting. This process involved creating a digital twin of the part before sending the files to the facility in Sweden to 3D print the metal impeller.

Their creation, the metal impeller, was then tested to certify its use in the plant. Siemens used CT scans to validate the part and state that it showed superior properties than its original counterpart. Head of Maintenance at the Krško plant, Vinko Planinc, said,

The better than expected performance of this 3D-printed part gave us confidence that we can reach the full life expectancy from our asset

Infographic showing the steps Siemens took to create the part. Image via Siemens.
Infographic showing the steps Siemens took to create the part. Image via Siemens.

Industrial use of 3D printing 

There is obviously great potential for 3D printing in the industrial world, particularly in creating one-off pieces like this impeller. However, Siemens is also advancing the industrial use of 3D printing in other ways. The German conglomerate recently used their additive manufacturing process to create gas turbine blades.

Siemens is also supporting the implementation of additive manufacturing with their NX software. The company has partnered with a number of 3D printing companies to offer their advanced industrial software. Recent partnerships include working with metal additive manufacturers Trumpf and Belgian software and 3D printing company Materialise. Projects such as these will help adoption of the process, particularly as they showcase the possibilities with implementation of this impeller part.

Tim Holt, CEO of Siemens Power Generation Services division, said this about the accomplishment,

This achievement at the Krško nuclear power plant is another example of how the digital transformation and the data-driven capabilities we have are impacting the energy industry in ways that really matter. Additive manufacturing’s reduced lead times and faster production optimizes parts replacement and creates real value for our customers.

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Featured image shows the Krško nuclear power plant in Slovenia. Photo via Siemens.