May 16, 2018 | By Tim Patterson

Nanfeng Co., Ltd announced that its subsidiary Nanfang Additive Manufacturing Technology Co,.Ltd reached an agreement with the Tubular Goods Research Institute of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) for a development project for special fittings, which will make use of additive manufacturing. The two sides have signed a contract for joint technology development.

According to the contract, the CNPC Tubular Goods Research Institute will commission Nanfang Additive Manufacturing to develop special 3D printing materials and manufacturing processes for electron-beam additive manufacturing of three-way pipe fittings, to complete electron-beam additive manufacturing of two thick-walled, large-diameter three-way pipe fittings, and to develop special 3D printing materials for repairing pipeline/pipe fittings.

In an official announcement by China National Petroleum Corporation released at the end of March, the CNPC Tubular Goods Research Institute first declared its intent to use this EBM additive manufacturing technology in the production of high-grade, large-caliber, and thick-walled three-way pipe fittings. This will be the first time this is carried out in China.

Product performance for these 3D printed fittings should meet the standard requirements for OD1422 X80 hot extrusion three-way pipe fittings, which are used in the low-temperature conditions of the East Railway Station. This will be the first application of metal 3D printing technology by Nanfang Additive Manufacturing for oil and gas pipelines. Previously, the main application for the technology was in the field of nuclear power.

In early February 2018, a major breakthrough was achieved by China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN)’s technical research project. The project was looking at the use of 3D printing technology for creating spare parts, as part of the nuclear power plant repair process. The research team successfully used EBM additive manufacturing technology to fabricate an end cap for a refrigerating machine, and this part was installed in the compressed air production system of the Daya Bay Nuclear Power plant, in Guangdong province. It also successfully passed the quality check.

This was one of the first joint R&D initiatives between CGN and Nanfang Additive Manufacturing, after the two companies had signed the "CGN Nuclear Power Plant Additive Manufacturing Technology and R&D Cooperation Agreement" back in December 2017.

According to CNPC Tubular Goods Research Institute, fabricating large-diameter, high-strength thick-walled three-way pipe fittings has always been a major obstacle for the construction of high-pressure long-distance pipelines in China. The traditional hot extrusion manufacturing method is limited by the thermal processing capability of the equipment, and it is not capable of meeting the standard wall thickness requirements.

In the hot-drawing process of the branch pipe, the multiple high-temperature heat treatment and subsequent heat treatment would result in significant differences in the microstructure and properties of the surface and central parts. The yield strength and Charpy impact energy absorption at the central part were significantly decreased. Welding of the three-way pipe body would use the manual arc welding approach, which has low welding efficiency, and the weld line's impact and toughness would be the weakest part of the entire pipe fitting.

EBM 3D printing technology is a major step forward from the methods traditionally used for creating these pipe fittings. It makes use of digital models and intelligent manufacturing systems, with no mold processing. The technique faces no limitations in terms of the thickness of the parts produced, so it is capable of meeting wall thickness requirements, and the product quality is also very stable. The electron-beam 3D printed parts demonstrate excellent performance, with mechanical properties that reach or even exceed the level of those produced by forging.

According to Nanfang Additive Manufacturing, this new collaboration will see the two parties working hard to overcome the obstacles in the production of large-diameter, high-strength and thick-walled three-way pipe fittings for high-pressure long-distance pipelines. The cooperation will also help further enhance the company’s metal 3D printing technology R&D.

This partnership will open up a new field of applications for Nanfang Additive Manufacturing's heavy metal 3D printing technology. At present, pipes produced in China do not adapt well to the low temperatures and bad weather conditions that Sino-Russian oil pipelines must endure. On the other hand, the prices of imported pipes that can meet these conditions are prohibitively high. The potential of 3D printing technology to overcome this issue could prove to be highly valuable.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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