As the potential for end-use parts and real-life applications becomes more of a reality in the additive manufacturing industry, the need for certification increases. Generally, certification is defined by the confirmation of certain characteristics of an object, person or organisation - this is where additive manufacturing immediately hits a wall. Additive manufactured ‘objects’ don’t have ‘certain characteristics’ and so far there is yet to be a standardised way of proving to manufacturers and regulators that printed products are both repeatable and safe.
World leader in certification, Lloyd’s Register Energy, has launched a Joint Industry Project (JIP) with TWI to explore the certification of laser powder additive manufactured components for industrial adoption in the energy and offshore sectors. TCT went along to the JIP launch event in Birmingham, which invited potential sponsors who may wish to collaborate on this 18-month project and gain early adoption of approved additive manufacturing practices for their products.
The Importance of Certification
Originating in 1760 in Edward Lloyd’s coffee house where it began examining and classifying merchant ships, today Lloyd’s Register has over 100 years under its belt serving various industry sectors including energy, power, rail and manufacturing. With verification credentials in place and new additive technologies coming into play in these very sectors, the company aims to combine its expertise with TWI’s 70 years of experience providing R&D support to the manufacturing industry world-wide. This collaboration will lead to the development of certification guidelines for real-world additive manufacturing practices.
Speaking at the launch, Chris Chung, Head of Strategic Research at Lloyd’s Register Energy, told TCT that the maturing of the technology into real world applications is why the company feels now is the time to start addressing these prevalent concerns in the additive manufacturing industry.
“There’s been a lot of development around the area and applications we’re seeing right now are moving far from the lab into actual full deployment,” Chris explained. “What we’re seeing is the advancement in technology, printer availability and cost reduction and actually there are good reasons why you would want to adopt additive manufacturing right now from reduced lead times through to optimising the component for deployment. We are seeing a number of early adopters and pioneers looking to deploy additive manufactured products into market.”
The idea is to bring together sponsors who will each contribute a detailed component design that will be taken from concept through to completion with additive manufacturing technology (Selective Laser Melting and Laser Metal Deposition). Ultimately these parts will be conditionally certified to meet industrial requirements for quality, safety and consistency and ready for production.
“The next step is to sit down with a number of potential sponsors,” Chris continued. “We’ve already got good feedback, it hits the right notes in terms of the challenges that they’re facing. The key is to make sure the project is tailored to meeting those challenges so that it’s impactful and we will then start detailed engagement with a number of different sponsors.”
These discussions are set to take a number of months so it may be a while before we get to see what types of components the sponsors have put forward. These will be used to look at the challenges of CAD model translation, material quality and recyclability, variability and support structures.
AM in the Energy Sector
For the energy industry, additive manufacturing could hold real promise. Of course there are the universal benefits of reduced lead times and costs, design flexibility and light-weighting but for an industry that operates in some very remote locations and harsh environments, a safe and localised form of manufacturing could offer an unrivalled advantage. In theory if a component were to fail on an oil rig but that rig had access to a AM system and certified file of that component, the part could be printed with the certainty it is fit for purpose and thus overcome the need to stock or transport replacement parts.
“For the oil and gas industry, if you look at the assets, they’re designed for 20-25 years,” Chris explained. “Quite often the machinery and spare parts are not available or supplies may not be in service anymore. That’s where AM comes in handy. If you have permission and the right to reproduce it you have to ensure it is form fitting.”
TWI is no newcomer to additive manufacturing technologies having harnessed several years’ experience in the development of selective laser melting and laser metal deposition processes. However the energy sector is a fairly recent adopter and its appetite to address critical issues such as cost, has forced the industry to look at innovative technologies and learn from the advancements in other industrial sectors such as aerospace and medical.
Peter Richards, Vice President, Marketing and Communications for Lloyd’s Register Energy, explained: “We’ve started to see more cross industry and cross learning collaboration and we saw some interesting work a few months ago in which there was crossover from both the aerospace and medical industry into the energy sector and adoption of learning from those areas.”
This additive manufacturing project will run between 12-18 months and depending on sponsor agreement, we could potentially see some designs within the next few months. These designs will provide a framework for certification of future additive manufactured products and for individual case studies, will ensure repeatability of future parts.
Chris added: “We want to make it very impactful for the sponsors. Being a joint industry project there will be a lot of similarities and synergies where we will be sharing a lot of the information and best practice among this group.”
For more information or to express an interest in becoming a sponsor visit: www.lr.org/additive-manufacturing