Gas Transmission Networks
The diversity of advanced manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing allows almost any shape to be produced without any product specific tooling being required, significantly lowering the manufacturing overhead on low volume parts. National Grid Gas operates a highly meshed network with a vast array of complex equipment. Much of this equipment requires specialist maintenance and a wide ranging parts inventory. To improve maintenance and part longevity, there is a need to examine alternative manufacturing techniques that will allow the company to specify improved components with the attendant, efficiency, maintenance and environmental savings.
The two most likely techniques for advanced manufacture are direct metal laser sintering (DMSL) and electron beam melting (EBM) that both produce metallic components by locally welding or sintering layers of metallic powder together using a high temperature laser or beam. These techniques produce high density parts suitable for stress critical applications. There is a unique advantage of these techniques that has yet to be fully exploited. As the part is created layer by layer it is possible to control the microstructure of each layer during deposition. There is also the opportunity to incorporate sensors directly into the material, potentially providing the self-monitoring component which will start to drive a more realistic ‘Condition Based Maintenance (CBM)’ regime. This has the potential be a very powerful capability for future asset maintenance activities.
This programme will explore different advanced manufacturing techniques and define an on-going strategy for National Grid in respect to future component manufacture capabilities and component cost benefit. The three phase programme will define all the key aspects of technique, product capability (mechanical/material), quality assurance and integration within the appropriate standards to enable rapid deployment within the business.
The examination of these new manufacturing techniques will place National Grid Gas in a strong and highly informed position to define suitable on-going component capability to suppliers.
The benefits of using advanced manufacturing (3D printing) techniques include, but are not limited to:
Operational assets that might be rendered obsolete due to unavailable (obsolete) parts can have their asset life extended, delaying replacement expenditure.
The costs of storing spare parts can be reduced as fewer parts are needed to be stored when low lead (delivery) time parts can be sourced.
he shorter delivery time reduces downtime and increases the availability of equipment and plant.
The potential to improve the design of a replacement part without incurring the cost of new tooling.
The potential to take advantage of the improved components and explore the potential of ‘intelligent’ parts with inbuilt sensor capability.