Mar 1, 2016 | By Alec

Though hobbyists, researchers and manufacturers are all quite optimistic about the 3D printing revolution in the near future, Gartner has proven itself to be one of the most reliable sources out there when it comes to market growth. Their previous prediction that 10% of people in the developed world will own 3D printed products by 2019 is therefore quite promising. But as Gartner’s Research Director Morgan Eldred just revealed at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Dubai, industrial 3D printing is also on the rise. Especially oil and gas companies are set to profit from the technology, it is revealed, and Gartner predicts that ten percent of all O&G companies will partially rely on 3D printing manufacturing by 2019.

Gartner, of course, is the world's leading information technology research and market advisory company, and are known for their detailed and often correct interpretations of market mechanisms. With 3D printing quickly becoming a crucial innovative technology, it has been the subject of several specialized reports already, of which Impact of 3D Printing for Oil and Gas Industry IT Leaders is the latest. At the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Dubai (1-3 March 2016), Morgan Eldred also discusses the opportunities and challenges this technology brings to the oil and gas sector – one of the largest industries in the world.

And those opportunities are certainly there. While the technology isn’t quite ready to take on large-scale fabrication, it does already offer a lot to industries that rely on high quality metal parts on a large scale, like the oil and gas (O&G) sector. The prediction that 10 percent of companies in that industry will use 3D printing for production of parts doesn’t sound too strange in that perspective. In the short term, they believe 3D printing will greatly speed up prototyping, producing, reworking and redesigning components, and make those processes more cost effective. In the long term, the technology could even change the way components are produced – especially in remote locations where shipping causes delays.

It’s therefore hardly surprising that several upstream O&G companies, including oil and gas operators, oil field service companies and OEMs, are already slowly looking into 3D printing, especially as an R&D tool. But as Eldred argued, that can only become a reality if Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and IT specialists take responsibility and take up central roles in implementing innovative technologies into their businesses. “Engineers and operations leaders might make the 3D print technology decisions, but IT leaders and their staff will be responsible for supporting those decisions with a robust and secure IT infrastructure,” he said.

In part, they will need to address an issue that has been a drag on 3D printing as a whole: intellectual property. “Concerns over intellectual property confidentiality and security, especially within the engineering domains, remain a drag on 3D printing’s progress. O&G companies, like other users of 3D designs, need to manage the intellectual property issues associated with 3D printing with great care,” he argues. This is still uncharted territory for most, he adds.

Senior managers are only now addressing those issues, and licensing stipulations for legally and safely reproducing 3D printable parts are still under development. 3D printing a part at a remote drilling site for repairs could easily create patent and legal issues, while every part needs to meet quality and performance specifications. “CIOs and other IT leaders will need to address issues such as preventing intellectual property theft and counterfeiting, ensuring the durability and high performance of 3D-printed parts and enabling collaboration and involvement of enterprise architects with engineering and operations personnel to implement security best practices,” he argues.

Aside from that immense challenge, Eldred further warns for data storage issues, which can be complicated in the geographically dispersed nature of the O&G industry and by data sharing standards of businesses and governments. 3D printing services, fortunately, could help facilitate that problem.

It does, however, mean that the benefits of 3D printing cannot be adopted that easily. As many 3D printing startups will have noticed for themselves, proper adoption requires significant IT architecture. But, as Eldred argues, the benefits far outweigh the costs. “The use of 3D printing will not only improve existing business processes and products, it will also lead to innovation and, possibly, the creation of new products, new business models and new ways of competing,” he concludes. The revolution is coming, but it will require efforts on our part as well.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Steve T wrote at 3/4/2016 4:18:16 PM:

What is with all the focus on IP? That doesn't even make sense. Most oil and gas parts that get made are sent to third party machine shops with paper CAD drawings. Can you get less secure than that?

Jon Harrop wrote at 3/4/2016 9:33:06 AM:

"Especially oil and gas companies are set to profit from the technology, it is revealed, and Gartner predicts that ten percent of all O&G companies will partially rely on 3D printing manufacturing by 2019." EFESTO told me 2 years ago at TCT that oil and gas companies were already profiting from 3D printing by using their DED metal printing technology.

Jon Harrop wrote at 3/4/2016 9:27:45 AM:

"Gartner has proven itself to be one of the most reliable sources out there when it comes to market growth" In 2013, Gartner forecast marginal growth for the entire 3D printing industry just before the industry grew massively. In 2014, Gartner revised their forecast to predict massive sustained 100% growth of the 3D printing industry just before the industry slowed down after the hype, both Stratasys and 3D Systems saw share prices crash, important players like RepRepPro and 3D System's Cube withdrew. So Gartners forecasts out by over 50%. For comparison, the IDTechEx forecast was out by just 5% for 2015.

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