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Retrofit3D, a 3D printed valve trim upgrade solution

Owned by IMI Critical Engineering, the solution not only matches, but improves operational performance

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Retrofit3D is a high-performance valve trim upgrade solution that utilizes state-of-the-art additive manufacturing and traditional manufacturing methods to increase the reliability and performance of plant operations. IMI Critical Engineering is the owner of the Retrofit3D business and is a world-leading provider of critical flow control solutions that enable vital energy and process industries to operate safely, cleanly, reliably, and more efficiently.

Among Retrofit3D’s clients are oil & gas companies, power generation companies, and electricity-generating power plants seeking fast, affordable, and reliable solutions to upgrade failing valves.

Retrofit3D, a 3D printed valve trim upgrade solution. Owned by IMI Critical Engineering, improves operational performance
Retrofit3D valve trim

Retrofit3D’s offering

The company claims that, unlike conventional refurbishments or like-for-like legacy valve replacements, the Retrofit3D solution actually improves operational performance by applying a detailed engineered solution with the help of the company’s revolutionary DRAG technology.

According to IMI Critical Engineering, “Retrofit3D has been developed to eliminate problems in control valves without the need to replace the entire valve. Essentially, Retrofit3D is an engineered trim solution customized to each specific application and process that fits into the existing valve body without the need to change the body and top woks. The guiding principles of their design remain the same as those of DRAG technology, which is to provide a tailored solution addressing the root cause of the issues. The multi-stage, multi-path DRAG trim directs fluid through a tortuous trim to incrementally reduce the differential pressure. The DRAG trim limits velocity head at the trim to eliminate erosion, vibration, and noise problems associated with the valve.”

Retrofit3D, a 3D printed valve trim upgrade solution. Owned by IMI Critical Engineering, improves operational performance
IMI CCI design (left) vs conventional design (right)

Retrofit3D is also an active member of America Makes, the USA’s National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. “Our membership in America Makes also presents IMI with unique opportunities to collaborate with other member organizations in an extensive range of industries to innovate and accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing.”

“When we began experiments with LPBF in 2008, we wanted to improve the flow control accuracy of small disk stacks through designing, building, and flow testing. We found that we were not able to build legacy designs without re-engineering. In 2017, we completed a comprehensive re-engineering for LPBF, which resulted in a significant improvement in performance and quality. As of today, we have shipped over 500 parts and are starting to phase out legacy processes for many sizes. With AM, we are no longer restricted to making cylindrical disk stacks only for IMI CCI valves. This has been a transformative idea at IMI CCI, and we have built a new business unit around helping customers find flow control solutions with AM technology,” said Steve Freitas, R&D Director at IMI CCI, during the panel on additive manufacturing for the energy segment at the recent IVS show.

Retrofit3D, a 3D printed valve trim upgrade solution. Owned by IMI Critical Engineering, improves operational performance
Customer’s valve fitted with a Retrofit3D trim.

Case studies

Retrofit3D has made a significant impact valve-using customers. Such as a refinery in Texas that processes crude oil and natural gas liquids (NGL) into transportation fuels, petroleum coke, NGL, and solvents. When the refinery was experiencing severe vibration of the steam let-down valve on its NGL unit, resulting in frequent breakage of the stem and plug coupling, poor flow control (especially at lower strokes), and excess noise, the company attempted to reduce the vibration by adding concrete to the valve and piping supports.

When the IMI Critical Engineering team analysed the problem, they found that the design was not suitable for the application, and that one of the issues was that the gas passing through the valve trim was exiting at too high a velocity – causing the vibration.

The engineers solved the problem using a new Retrofit3D DRAG trim to reduce the velocity of fluids exiting the valve. The disk stack that was used was manufactured using IMI Critical’s Retrofit3D valve trim upgrade solution, and incorporated 2-4 let-down stages to provide velocity control and reduce vibration.

Another example of where Retrofit3D’s valve solution has been applied is at a major offshore oil & gas facility, located 150km off the coast of Nigeria, where the customer was having trouble with its second stage water transfer pumps. Upon closer inspection, it became clear that the valve on the mini flow line was designed to handle a maximum flow of 257m³/h, while the actual required flow was 310m³/h – putting a strain on the system.

The customer was looking for a cost-effective solution that did not involve replacing the entire valve. Once again, Retrofit3D was used to create a bespoke solution to the customers problem.

By changing the trim from 5” to 6”, the valve’s capacity was able to meet the required flow co-efficient. The entire trim assembly (seat and plug) was upgraded to the larger size, while the cage assembly was replaced with a single 3D printed cage, incorporating multi-stage paths to reduce pressure. This cage would provided enhanced flow control by incorporating ‘tear drop’ holes which were created using direct metal laser sintering.

This solution allowed the customer to reuse the existing valve body, bonnet, actuator and accessories, and the new 6” trim was delivered within 12 weeks.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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