3D Printing Transforms Energy Manufacturers, from Turbines to Valves

by IS_Indust
3D Printing

In an attempt to reduce costs, promote innovation, and increase sustainability, some of the biggest and most technologically sophisticated producers of wind, gas, electricity, and oil in the world are embracing 3D printing’s capacity to deliver vital parts anywhere in the world faster and more effectively than traditional manufacturing methods.

As an illustration, consider Vestas, the biggest wind energy company in the world, which develops, produces, installs, and maintains wind turbines across 87 nations. According to Jeremy Haight, principal engineer of additive manufacturing and advanced concepts at Vestas, this multinational’s operations have been revolutionised by their decision to turn to in-house 3D printing of custom parts, specialised tools, and prototypes.

“After launching a trial 3D printing programme, we observed real return on investment in roughly six months. It did far better than we had anticipated,” Haight says.

Before, the company would procure essential parts and equipment from various global suppliers in accordance with comprehensive manufacturing guidelines, such as those for milling aluminium. After six to twelve weeks of production, the completed parts were shipped to the different Vestas locations, where they were examined for compliance and, if authorised, used. However, some parts were not exactly as specified, which led to expensive delays. Vestas required an improved method to ensure that the exact same part could be consistently produced worldwide, adhering to tight specifications.

They discovered that 3D printing was the answer. A Markforged X7 industrial carbon-fiber 3D printer, with access to a safe online repository of digital part designs and comprehensive 3D printer settings, would be the same model and make available to all of their global locations. Since its inception in 2021, the programme has printed over 10,000 parts annually through 3D printing.

“The Vestas team is confident they will always have consistent, high-quality parts available whenever they need them, no matter where in the world, thanks to the repository,” says Haight. “This has significantly lowered lead times for manufacturing, freight, and shipping, and Vestas facility engineers don’t need to be 3D printing experts.”

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