MX3D, a Robotic Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) company, successfully completed the printing of an industrial pipeline clamp. Clamps such as these are used in the chemical and oil & gas industries to prevent incidents and to increase the run time of an installation before maintenance is required. The WAAM Clamp was manufactured and tested in collaboration with TEAM Industries and TiaT, two companies with extensive experience in the maintenance, testing and (emergency) repair of complex industrial pipe systems. The BWI (Belgium Welding Institute) handled the material testing and Lloyd’s Register supported MX3D with the certification process.
“Hybrid additive manufacturing combines both the advantages of conventional manufacturing such as precision and high production speed of ‘simple’ parts, with the advantages of additive manufacturing, such as geometrical freedom, production speed and minimal material waste. The WAAM Clamp quality and complexity showcase the potential of the technology developed by MX3D,” said Thomas Van Glabeke, MX3D, Project Lead / R&D Manager at MX3D.
Short lead times are key in the oil and gas industry; reducing production downtime and decreasing environmental, human and safety risks is critical. The current lead time of pipeline repair can be as long as 2 to 3 weeks with a potential lost value from several thousand to a million euros per day. Current repair processes for clamps typically rely on CNC milling, specialized manual labor, or a combination of both. Each of these processes has downsides: CNC milling causes a high rate of material waste (on average more than 80% of the original material) while specialized laborers are hard to find.
“Clamps and/or enclosures used for online leak sealing in (petro) chemical installations are for over 90% custom designed and custom manufactured and in most cases require a very short lead time,” said Simon van der Harst, Team Industrial Services, Senior Specialist Engineering, and Manufacturing. “The WAAM technology, if further developed, in the near future can be an advantage in the sense of no large investments are necessary anymore in keeping a great variation of stock (plate) materials; very little to no waste materials if built up from zero; minimizing final machining time; more variety in designing possible and less depending on available tools and base components.”
During the scope of the WAAM Clamp project, a typical repair part for pipelines was researched and manufactured with hybrid WAAM. This technique provides a smart production solution, by combining the advantages of traditional manufacturing (such as precision machining) with the advantages of wire arc additive manufacturing (such as form freedom, high deposition rates, and minimal material waste).
The consortium managed to reach a high level of assurance for the WAAM clamp. BWI tested the materials and confirmed that the printed material complied with key TEAM Industries requirements for this material. The MX3D M1 Metal AM System, facility and procedures were qualified by Lloyds Register. TiaT performed non-destructive testing, such as Ultrasonic Testing (UT), Penetrant Testing (PT), Radiographic Testing (RT), showing no relevant defects. TEAM Industries has performed a pressure test, which ran until the maximum pressure of the test installation (i.e. > 60 Bar) without any failure.
The base and printing material used was ASME IIA SA-516-70, a type of steel often used in the chemical and oil & gas industries. The requirements for the mechanical properties of this material were dictated by its most common use case: pressure vessels working at medium to low temperature. The destructive tests were performed following ASTM A370. The destructive testing results from TiaT proved that the printed material, even in its least favorable direction, has mechanical properties similar or better than the base material, hence fitting the ASME requirements.
“A different way of production also means a different way of inspection,” said Andre Elling from TiaT. “This is what TiaT focussed on during the interesting project. This new fabrication technology using robotic WAAM has promising results, even for high-demanding industries such as the oil and gas industry where qualification is at the heart of the sector.“
Ultimately the project demonstrated the use of Hybrid WAAM, an additive approach that counters two known challenges of metal deposition (LMD/DED) additive manufacturing, namely the need for post-processing and precision. While large-scale LMD/DED additive manufacturing processes can be used to produce parts very fast, traditional manufacturing techniques are generally faster for the production of simple shapes. Conventional techniques can also achieve a higher level of precision than large-scale AM. By introducing a hybrid approach, the project consortium used 3D printing only for the most complex geometrical parts of the clamp, while using traditional manufacturing for the simpler parts, saving time.
Hybrid WAAM presents several advantages over conventional technologies such as forging, CNC-milling and manual welding (requiring specialty welders) for the oil & gas industry. Compared to forging, WAAM has a shorter fabrication lead time as it can produce locally, on-demand and even at remote locations. Compared to CNC-milling, WAAM has a much lower material waste rate compared to any subtractive process. Finally, compared to manual welding, the manufacturer is less dependent upon the availability of specialty welders, as robots can fabricate 24/7. By incorporating pre-manufactured standard components into the WAAM process (i.e. Hybrid WAAM), each of the above-described benefits is increased by reducing lead time and manufacturing time compared to regular WAAM.
The project received support from the EU Horizon 2020 program, through the 1st call for TRINITY Demonstration Programme, Project full name: Digital Technologies, Advanced Robotics and increased Cyber-security for Agile Production in Future European Manufacturing Ecosystems, Acronym: TRINITY, EU Horizon Grant agreement number: 825196.
- Project Lead: MX3D – Thomas Van Glabeke
- Use Case & Pressure Test: TEAM Industries – Simon van der Harst
- Materials & Certification: MX3D – Stivell Hemon
Non Destructive Test (NDT): TiaT – André Elling
- Material Testing: BWI / Belgium Welding Institute
- 3D Printing: MX3D – Juri Weber
- Certification Expertise: Lloyd’s Register
WAAM Clamp factsheet:
- Technology: WAAM by MX3D, Proprietary Software
- Production: MX3D
- Customer Requirements: TEAM Industries
- Material Testing: BWI | Belgium
- Non Destructive Testing (NDT): TiaT
- WAAM Software: MX3D MetalXL
- Hardware, robotics: ABB
- Hardware, sensors: MX3D Control System
- Hardware, welding: Oerlikon Citowave III
- Welding Gas: M21 Arcal Force
- Material: ASME IIA SA-516-70 (base material) / E70C-6M H4 (wire)
- Weight: 87 Kg total / 30 Kg printed part
- Length: 600 mm
- Width: 300 mm
- Height: 600 mm
- Values Material Research:
- Base Material: Re: 405 MPa / Rm: 548 MPa / A%: 23
- WAAM Material: Re: 412 MPa / Rm: 543 MPa / A%: 33
- Netto deposition rate: 2.1 Kg/Hour
- Total Robot Time Prototype: 45 Hours
- Application Industries: Oil & Gas, Chemical
- Project Display: 16-19th of November, FormNext 2021, Frankfurt, Germany, Hal 12.0 Booth C81
- Project Funding: TRINITY, EU Horizon Grant agreement number: 825196