The Australian metal additive manufacturing (AM) firm, AML3D, has announced a $190,000 purchase order for a high-pressure piping vessel, from global oil megalith ExxonMobil. Specifically, ExxonMobil’s Asia Pacific division has ordered what AML3D touts as the “world’s largest” metal 3D printed commercial pressure vessel. AML3D completed its first successful print of the component last November.
According to the company, it can produce the eight-ton, eight-meter-long part in around 12 weeks. This decrease in manufacturing lead-time more or less tracks with other recent uses of AM in the oil and gas sector.
To meet its deadline within such a compressed timeframe, AML3D states that it will be devoting up to 75% of the capacity of its Adelaide facility exclusively to the part. Moreover, five out of the facility’s eight installed Arcemy machines will be used for the job. The Arcemy is AML3D’s proprietary system for AM-driven wire arc melding.
Largely due to its inextricability from all other industrial and commercial processes — as well as, quite simply, consumer demand in general — the dynamics shaping the oil and gas market are more complex than in any other sector. Such uniquely volatile supply and demand pressures are currently making a compelling argument for increased incorporation of digital supply chains in general, and AM in particular, in the oil and gas industry.
In addition to the present example, this year, Chevron has used AM to procure right-on-time replacement parts for one of its refineries in the U.S., which allowed the corporation to avoid output delays. At the RAPID + TCT event in May, metal parts for oil and gas production were one of the most commonly-touted applications for metal AM. And Shell has used AM to produce impellers for its Dutch refinery, after becoming, last year, the first European company to receive third-party certification for a printed part, from LRQA (formerly Lloyd’s of London). LRQA also certified the first version of the AML3D part that was produced last November. According to “The Market for Additive Manufacturing in the Oil and Gas Sector 2018-2029” report from SmarTech Analysis, 3D printing for the oil and gas industry could represent a $2 billion revenue opportunity by 2029. Large-format 3D printing may play a crucial role, as SmarTech’s “DED and Large-Format Additive Manufacturing Markets: 2021-2030” report projects that this sector will be worth $739 million in 2026.
The entire world is presently struggling from the price volatility created by fluctuations in the oil market. In simplest terms, the increase in price catalyzes more production, which — if not supported by equivalent demand — quickly leads to price swings in the opposite direction, in turn leading production to plummet once more, etc. Long-term planning is thus hampered in the area of the economy where it’s probably most necessary. AM won’t solve this, but it will give companies a powerful weapon in their toolkits for remaining agile in the face of continued supply chain disruptions.
Images courtesy of AML3D
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