Tessa’s Weekly Picks – Rugged 3D Printing


Tessa Blokland  


The theme of this week’s blog post is unknown territory for me, but curiosity is one of my drivers to know more. So, if you as an expert read a flaw or would like to share your AM innovation, I welcome you to give a response. Unknown territory … that is exactly what the blog post is about: 3D printed parts, equipment, and materials for rugged environments. Rugged environments, I mean industries in which industrial parts need to perform under hard, and extreme conditions, and often in remote places, such as in mining, military operations, drilling for oil or gas, to name a few workhorses, as also mentioned in an earlier blog post from LEO Lane. Let’s have a look at some 3D-printed examples of these digital workhorses. For example, the top image is a 3D printed drill bit from Würth Industry North America (WINA) and Baker Hughes.

This 3D printed stator is made of a mixture of S4 stainless/bronze matrix and manufactured by ExOne for its client Ulterra, an American-based drill bit company serving the oil and gas industry. The challenge was to extend the life of rotors and stators for down-hole applications with 3D printing. And indeed, the challenge succeeded in many ways: after more than 600 hours there was still no measurable wearing to see. Additionally, the production cost had reduced from $400-$500 for each part to $75-$150 each.

The soldier on the image is holding a 3D printed cap used to protect the fire extinguishing system housed in the wheel wells of Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. These caps protect the fire extinguisher nozzles, housed in the MRAP’s wheel wells, and blow off when the fire extinguishing system activates. Without the cap, MRAPs are deemed non-mission-capable, and soldier safety would be an issue. The caps can be ordered, but with estimated delivery of five months during running operations, such caps will never be on time at their destination. Thanks to 3D printing on-site, – it was only a small cap that was the issue – the army saved not only many non-mission-capable days as well as money (each cap would cost about $2.50 per part), but could also secure soldier safety during an operation.

Equally important for rugged 3D printed parts is the use of the right material. Sandvik, a Swedish engineering group in additive manufacturing, materials technology, metal cutting, and mining, and rock excavation has created a 3D printable diamond composite.  According to the website, “the difference between its diamond and natural or synthetic diamonds is that its process creates a composite. It is mostly diamond, but to make it printable and dense, it needs to be cemented in a very hard matrix material while keeping the most important physical properties of pure diamond. Once printed the composite diamond needs no further machining. The diamond composite has been tested and found to have high hardness, exceptional heat conductivity, and corrosion resistance. Another advantage is that material waste is minimized. The diamond powder in Sandvik’s process can be extracted from the polymer in the slurry after printing and then recycled for another print job.”

And what if you do not have the resources to set up an entire 3D printing facility on-premises? Fieldmade is an Norwegian company, specialized in mobile units for enabling in-field additive manufacturing of spare parts or technical components in- or near real-time. The so-called NOMAD modules are transportable by air, sea, and land, and operate fully self-sustained in extreme conditions.

For the replacement of one part in this downhole tool for their client BP, EnergyX used additive manufacturing in collaboration with Promet AS. The 3D printed replacement part was the first try out in the exploration of the use of additive manufacturing in the Oil & Gas industry of EnergyX.

LEO Lane_Weekly Pick_Rugged 3D Printing

Each of Tessa’s weekly picks is a curated group of 3D printed designs, based on the week’s chosen theme. If you would like to offer a theme for Tessa, or if you have your 3D printed weekly picks you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest weekly picks every week in your mailbox.


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