AMS Spring 2023

PEEK 3D Printed Oil and Gas Valves Now Available via 3ntr and Valland

6K SmarTech

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Italian industrial 3D printer manufacturer 3ntr has partnered with custom industrial valve company Valland SpA to 3D print PEEK oil and gas valves. Using 3ntr’s Smart Power A4SP 3D printer, Valland has made PEEK components for internal usage and is now transitioning to making PEEK end products for oil and gas companies.

Valves have been a focus area for very few people in the 3D printing set. However, given their vast numbers and the high degree of differentiation of custom valve designs, the sector is ripe for additive manufacturing (AM). Many valves are unique, low-volume, or are now out of production. At the same time, valve companies, national oil companies, or private oil majors have to warehouse a large number of these components, tying up capital. If a particular valve can’t be found or made quickly, the costs can be very high in the oil business. These factors contribute to making an ever stronger, and perhaps surprising, case for metal and polymer valves made with 3D printing.

Particolare stampat0 in 3D da 3nter
PEEK, and other similar materials in the PAEK family, is very strong and chemically resistant. Its stiffness, low weight, and inherent flame retardancy makes well suited to oil and gas. The PAEK family of materials are already widely used in oil and gas for seals and valves manufactured with conventional manufacturing techniques. PEEK, therefore, is not as exotic to an oil and gas company as it may be to many fields.
However, PEEK is notoriously difficult to process with AM. Often, poorly printed parts can turn to a rather expensive glass-like brown structure that has none of the strength that you need it to have. Problems with temperature control can also lead to the appearance of black specs on parts. It’s a good sign that 3ntr´s printers can process this material well for an industrial client.

¨Since 2020, the company has decided to create an internal department dedicated to Additive Manufacturing, officially established at the beginning of 2022, and to make the definitive leap in quality, it was decided to focus on 3ntr’s A4SP. Since the first tests performed, the printer has given extremely positive feedback both in terms of the quality of printing superpolymers such as PEEK, and in terms of precision and repeatability. Having a printer of this level in house has enabled us to definitely accelerate our research and development processes, giving us an important competitive advantage….Also, thanks to the flexibility of 3D printing, we can respond even more punctually and quickly to the special needs of our customers,” said Gianluca Acquistapace, Additive Manufacturing Engineer at Valland.

Valland went from outsourcing its PEEK parts from a service to internal prototype printing to making their own tooling before venturing into 3D printing commercial products. Recently, it got the first order for its PEEK 3D printed valves.
3ntr previously made very well built industrial AM machines with reliability and repeatability in mind. By moving into higher temperature 3D printing, they’ve had to up their game with nozzle temperatures of over 400°C and built plate and build chamber temperatures of around 200°C. This is not enough, however. The company will have had to improve their thermal management in order to coherently print these parts. If 3ntr is successfully able to port its reliability and repeatability to high-temperature materials, then the likes of Roboze, miniFactory, 3DGence, Vshaper and AON3D will have a tough competitor on their hands.
This is good for the industry. I really believe that if you can 3D print high-temperature materials well, then you will automatically make an excellent 3D printer for other materials, as well. So, I applaud any progress in this arena specifically. I also really believe that the oil and gas sector, and the energy sector more broadly, is an exciting area for AM.
Energy components may often be critical. When they’re out of service, unavailable, or fail, the costs are very high. Part libraries in these industries are enormous and they are geographically very spread out. By their very nature, oil and gas installations can be found all over the world, often in places very far away from your nearest city or transport hub. The high cost of part failure and the remoteness of installations also makes the energy industry an extremely good candidate for adopting AM.

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