It is common knowledge that the oil and gas industry is a billion-dollar industry. It is both a niche industry as well as a widely encompassing area. Niche, in the small array of components and types the industry requires. Widely encompassing, with the huge spectrum of materials the components require.
Additive manufacturing is still in its nascent stage. Very limited materials are available for 3D printing at this stage. This has been largely due to little effort and emphasis on developing the printing parameters and optimized raw feedstock for 3D printing. Cost and time have been some of the biggest factors in hindering this progress. Moreover, the oil and gas industry, like the maritime industry, is largely governed by strict protocols. Said protocols have been playing catch up to the rapid technological improvements. As such, many materials and parts have not been certified for use.
Stellite 6 is one such material that is commonly used for oil and gas applications. Hard facing alloys are commonplace in the industry to improve the performance of the various components such as the mechanical properties. This enables the part to perform much better under harsher conditions. Additive manufacturing would be fantastic for such applications without the need to manufacture the whole material is such exotic materials owing to the high cost of the raw material.
Extensive research and development is currently being undertaken to develop the parameters to print Stellite 6 in the varying technologies such as Powder Bed Fusion as well as Directed Energy Deposition. In tandem, powder manufacturers are exploring various processes to optimize the manufacturing of the powders for 3D printing.
Such revolutionary developments would be extremely timely, as we note the oil and gas industry pick itself up from the slump in the recent months. Such advances would definitely play a critical role whilst certification and other protocols and standards are being developed globally.