HomeDigitalization3D PrintingHow the power sector is unlocking 3D printing potential

How the power sector is unlocking 3D printing potential

A new report states that the power industry is steadily embracing the opportunities of 3D printing, with applications being used in renewables, conventional energy and battery storage.

And the study from analysts at GlobalData predicts that additive manufacturing technology is expected to penetrate further into the energy sector with the advent of larger printers and advances in 3D-printing technology.

In particular, it forecasts that the technology is “set to revolutionize the nuclear power industry, as scientists take advantage of developing flexible materials, 3D-printed parts and nuclear sensors layer by layer”.

The report, ‘Thematic Research: 3D Printing in Power’, highlights that with many section of the power industry under pressure from a variety of factors, manufacturers are focusing on 3D printing due to its decreased costs and shorter timeframes.

The energy sector early adopters of the technology are highlighted as Siemens, GE, Rosatom and Westinghouse.

GlobalData senior analyst Sneha Susan Elias said power utilities and equipment manufacturers “are witnessing a huge opportunity in 3D printing to make their operations more efficient. Vestas views 3D printing as its key enabling technology for wind turbines and replacement parts in the future.”

In 2018, Siemens achieved a milestone by producing the first 3D printed metal replacement parts for an industrial gas turbine. According to the company, this is a game-changer as it can reduce the lead time for producing these parts by 40 per cent. The company acquired 3D printing specialist Materials Solutions in 2016 as part of its strategic plan to set up a global additive manufacturing (AM) service business. Siemens is investing €30m in a 3D printing facility in the UK for Materials Solutions.

Elias adds: “Siemens will also utilize AM technology for its HL-class gas turbines (SGT5-9000HL), for which the company has announced a collaboration with SSE in June 2018 to deploy this 50Hz turbine at its Keadby 2 CCGT power station in the UK. In addition, Siemens and E.ON also attained a major 3D printing milestone through its 3D-printed burner for an SGT-700 industrial gas turbine operating at E.ON’s combined cycle power plant located in Philippsthal, Germany.

GE has already shipped 9000 3D-printed gas turbine components and 3D printing will be used to enhance the efficiency of the company’s turbines, opening up the possibility to quickly manufacture and test prototypes.

Elias added that another area where 3D printing is being used in the power industry is in solar panels. “Although this is still at a nascent stage, experts say that it could enable the production of higher efficiency solar cells than is presently possible through traditional screen-printing techniques.”

Called 3DPCoin (T3DP), the team refers to a 3D printing research project that was initiated in 2013 by Daniel Clark, the inventor of T3DP’s 3D-printed solar power technique. This project employs a patented volumetric 3D-printing method to construct perovskite-based solar PV panels that can almost double the conversion efficiency of the present panels.

Kelvin Ross
Kelvin Ross is Editor-in-Chief of Enlit Europe and Power Engineering International. A journalist for more than 30 years, he has worked on regional, national and international newspapers, as well as trade magazines serving sectors including insurance, shipping, health and financial markets. He has covered the energy sector for more than 10 years. He helped establish Energy Live News in the UK before joining PEi and he has been ranked among the top 100 global influencers on Twitter for 'renewable energy' and 'smart grid' topics.