3D printing may be a new technology, but its effects are already being felt across multiple industries. In particular, the oil and gas sector has announced its plans to implement a combination of CAD drafting and 3D printers that will eventually overhaul its manufacturing process completely.
Improved Manufacturing through CAD
While the oil and gas industry is still a long way away from deploying 3D printing as the main manufacturing method for the massive equipment that makes up oil rigs, processing plants, and other important installations for the collection and processing of oil and gas, it is already in the process of integrating CAD and 3D printing into its product creation cycle. Companies are already using 3D printers to create nozzles and other small parts, with the intention of eventually using so-called “additive technology” to mass-produce oil and gas processing equipment on a large scale. If things proceed as planned, oil and gas companies will soon be able to produce equipment on a scale that was impossible before.
Piggybacking off of the 3D printing innovations it has used for its aerospace division, GE Oil & Gas is currently implementing plans to begin widespread distribution of 3D printed nozzles, to be used in the company’s new NovaLT16 natural gas turbines. According to a representative of the company, manufacturing these nozzles has traditionally been a laborious, time-consuming process, involving the required building of 20 individual pieces, and then tediously combining them together one by one. But with the company’s new computer-modeled 3D printable version, the nozzles can be manufactured as one whole piece. Not only is this manufacturing method faster and more productive, but it creates a sturdier nozzle. Where the old nozzles were made of individual pieces welded and sealed together, the 3D printed versions are entirely internally contiguous, making them more sturdy and precise.
A New Industrial Revolution?
In engineering-intensive industries like oil and gas, the old model for how quickly and affordably products could be created was measured by the work intensity, and by the complexity of the design for each tool and piece of machinery. Once additive manufacturing processes, like the one GE Oil & Gas is using to create the NovaLT16 nozzles, become the norm, the old model will go out the window. Instead of cost being measured in the complexity of manually completing a project, the only barrier to a product’s construction will be the amount of material required for the company’s 3D printers to replicate it.
This CAD-fueled innovation would affect more than just the manufacturing of products that have already been created. In the past, innovation ended at the point where a piece became too complex for engineers to design and assemble by hand or by using current manufacturing technology. Additive manufacturing, on the other hand, requires only that a digital blueprint be created and then sent to a 3D printer for replication. According to GE, this could lead to the creation of a host of new technologies, as well as shorten the prototyping period from weeks to mere days.
Like the oil and gas industry, many manufacturing and production industries are discovering new ways to use CAD technology to innovate, cut costs, and improve the quality of their products. For more information on how we use CAD to improve our work and better serve our customers, contact us today at 800-700-3305.