3D printing is still proving itself as a viable production technology.
Proofs of concept lead to adoption; adoption leads to use; use leads to real-world use cases highlighting the validity of new workflows. Siemens recently marked a milestone with a 3D printed burner in an SGT-700 gas turbine that has more than 8,000 operational hours, with no reports of issues, to its credit.
The gas turbine, in use for one year in Philippsthal, Germany, is running at E.ON’s combined cycle power plant. The burner head was created with selective laser melting (SLM) technology in 2017 via Siemens’ intelligent burner manufacturing (IBUMA) program in Finspång, Sweden. Rather than the traditional 13-part-18-weld design, the 3D printed burner head is made in one piece.
Siemens has told us about their long interest in and history with additive manufacturing; the milestone announced this week stands as testament to the viability of their venture.
8,000 operational hours is a significant milestone in an industrial environment, and offers another real-world use case to highlight the value of additive in manufacturing.
In some cases, case studies stand as simple PR exercises to get a company’s technology at the forefront of the press. Increasingly, though, we’re seeing case studies emerge as look-what-we-have-done rather than look-what-we-can-do.
Proofs of concept are brilliant as a stepping stone, and are absolutely necessary for R&D that drives innovation. Just as 3D printing is moving beyond prototyping into production, though, real-world installations beyond proof points are highlighting the maturation of additive manufacturing as both industry and technology.
Siemens’ ongoing investment into 3D printing, engaging through hardware, software, and materials, is demonstrative of the global giant’s confidence in the technology as a true (however much the phrase is overused) game-changer.
More intelligent design with more advanced capabilities possible through 3D printing is of great benefit to the energy sector, as the gas turbine burner showcases. In this particular design, enhancements enabled superior performance, as Siemens notes:
“Design improvements, such as the pilot-gas feed being part of the burner head instead of the outside fuel pipe, allow the operating temperature to be kept lower, thus contributing to a longer operational lifespan of the components and, ultimately, the gas turbines.”
Siemens worked directly with E.ON to collaborate toward the creation of the piece, as E.ON Energy Projects Project Manager Niklas Lange noted:
“As an energy service provider, precision and consistency are an absolute requirement for us. Additive manufacturing not only delivers this, but in our experience it can even improve performance compared with older models.
We like to help drive innovation. When I saw these burners from Siemens in Sweden, I knew we could benefit from using them in a commercial turbine. It’s also important to note that our hands-on collaboration with Siemens has been a key to deliver performance to our customer.”
For this burner, additive manufacturing enabled a new design with an ultimately enhanced overall performance for the gas turbine. A year of issue-free operation is a significant milestone to mark — as a starting point.
We’ll look forward to hearing stories like these pick up as more additive manufacturing systems take their place in production workflows.