3D Printing Solutions for Oil and Gas Companies
As we enter an age of technological acceleration, too much attention is paid to the awe and lore of new technologies rather than their practicality. To get an idea of this, look no further than 3D printing, which makes three-dimensional solid objects from a digital model using electronic data.
While the hype surrounding this break-through technology is certainly warranted, in theory, its application dates back to the 1970’s. It wasn’t until 2010, with the rise of STL files, that business leaders started seeing the tremendous potential of 3D printing for improving industries in need of sustainable solutions.
Which brings us to one of the most unsustainable industries in the world: oil and natural gas. Ostensibly, 3D printing is now one of the most disruptive technologies in this industry because it optimizes the entire process, from drill bits to analyzing seismic data.
Prototype Concepts Quickly and Cheaply
In many ways it’s not just changing the industry but spearheading a new model entirely. So much that, GE engineer David Bell stated: “3D printing is a game changer. Engineering is all about compromise and this allows you to trial concepts quickly and cheaply.” To that, we say, well put Mr. Bell.
Unsurprisingly, David Bell isn’t the only industry leader to come out and support this initiative. Eric Gebhardt, chief technology officer and vice president of engineering at GE Oil & Gas, said from the floor of OTC, “It will make the process more precise because you actually have everything printed in place.” Which means 3D printing will enable major proactive changes, leading to a much cleaner, less expensive, and more accessible oil and gas industry. This is great news, because while renewable energy certainly can’t keep pace with our current output, 3D printing can, which will help decrease our carbon footprint.
You Can 3D Print Production Parts, Too
Lets examine the practicality of these new developments. As of now, industry leaders are focused on designing and printing metal nozzles and submersible pumps to fuel combustion in gas pipes.
GE Oil & Gas even has plans to begin widespread production of 3D-printed nozzles, known as the Jedi nozzle, for its new NovaLT16 natural gas turbines, which are modeled after similar 3D-printed nozzles used in GE’s jet engines. But that isn’t all. Subsea pumps that help extract oil and gas out of wells are currently being developed by a number of companies, most notably 3D Systems based in South Carolina. And these developments are only a fraction of what the future holds.
While that certainly sounds good, what does this mean for the oil and gas industry? And how will it affect 3D printing? Well, in many ways, these two industries will only continue to combine forces and break existing barriers of thought. Since the gas and oil industry is one of necessity, 3D printing will allow for more creative thinking and innovation, and therefore more solutions.
3D printing maximizes the potential of industries that operate on a massive scale by reducing prototyping lead times and cost. It’s all about scaling down costs while increasing production, which is a win-win for the oil and gas industry