Three years ago, global engineering, technical, and business services firm Lloyd’s Register (LR), which is wholly owned by UK charity Lloyd’s Register Foundation, invited companies from around the world to come together and discuss the issues that manufacturers were having with additive manufacturing – because there was no set way to prove that 3D printed products were safe, LR believed the technology was being held back. The company is clearly focused on bringing about widespread integration of the technology, and just announced a major industry milestone – the very first certification of a 3D printed titanium part for the oil and gas industry.

LR did not print the part itself, but in an “industry first,” used its existing framework to oversee and certify the entire process, which could offer manufacturers further guidance in using AM processes to certify other components. Safer Plug Company (SPC), based in Surrey, designed the part – a titanium gateway manifold to be used in pipelines – and it was 3D printed in titanium, using powder bed fusion, by AM production company 3T RPD.

“3T RPD are delighted that certification has been issued. We regularly work with clients in the aerospace, medical and motorsports industries to produce metal parts. Hopefully SPC will set the example and demonstrate how the oil and gas industry can realise the benefits of AM,” said Luke Rogers, New Product Introduction Project Manager for 3T RPD.

Over a year ago, because of the process SPC went through to design and produce the part, it asked LR to offer independent assurance of the manifold manufacturing process. Lloyd’s Register’s Additive Manufacturing Product Certification gives manufacturers and end users confidence that specific 3D printed parts meet required standards.

Ciaran Early, SPC Technical Director, said, “In taking on this initiative, LR’s Additive Manufacturing group has truly opened a gateway to the future. LR’s pivotal role is to guide suppliers through the codes, standards, controls and best practices to manufacture AM parts, in order that end users will have full confidence that an AM part meets the required level of criticality for that part.”

The gateway manifold is shown inside SPC’s assembled pipeline isolation tool.

LR produced its “Guidance Notes for Additive Manufacturing of Metallic Parts” framework together with The Welding Institute (TWI); both entities are very involved with the industry, and are members of multiple working additive manufacturing standardization groups. The framework isn’t just concerned with material standards, and the LR team also assessed the manufacturing facility where the manifold was produced.

Andrew Imrie, LR Global Product Launch Manager, said, “It’s crucial that new technologies are embraced by the oil and gas industry. LR is at the forefront of supporting these new technologies, enabling the industry to bring certified products to market with the proper assurance and confidence.”

The 3D printed part will be included in an assembly built for a suite of pipeline isolation tools, including the smallest tool in the world that can handle six-inch diameter pipework.

“From an industry and customer perspective this certification provides added confidence in parts produced by this new technology. This will undoubtily accelerate the adoption of AM into the oil and gas mainstream,” said Dr. Claire Ruggiero, Director Innovation, Technical and Quality for LR. “The work we have done with TWI and research undertaken by the LR Foundation-funded PhD students has provided the robust basis for this certification and we look forward to further building our expertise and experience together with the industry pioneers like SPC.”

L-R: Gateway manifold shown in three states of manufacture: Transparent stereolithographic prototype; additively manufactured in titanium but not machined; and the final, machined titanium part.

The next batch of ten manifolds, jointly produced by SPC and 3T RPD, will also be certified by LR, which is also involved with AM projects within the construction, marine, and nuclear industries. In addition, SPC is currently working with LR on a Type Approval certificate; this would allow SPC and 3T RPD to manufacture the manifolds, and the other pipeline isolation tools, on demand.

“This project is a great example of how innovative companies are making great use of additive manufacturing’s benefits. This part would have been nearly impossible to produce using traditional manufacturing techniques due to its complex internal channels,” said Amelia Stead, LR AM Surveyor and the primary technical lead on the project.

See the video below to learn why certification is so important for additive manufacturing.

Discuss in the Certified Titanium Part forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source/Images: Lloyd’s Register]

 

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