A 3D-printed repair clamp reduces pipeline downtime

The Dutch company MX3D has unveiled a steel 3D-printed clamp for pipelines, a part produced using WAAM technology (Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing) and subtractive manufacturing methods. Using a hybrid approach, the company is able to redesign the manufacturing process for a critical part used in the oil & gas and chemicals industries. This helps to prevent incidents and extend maintenance periods.

The repair clamp is the fruit of a collaboration between MX3D, Team Industries and TiaT. The Belgium Welding Institute (BWI) then conducted trials while Lloyd’s Register supported MX3D during the certification process for the part. The consortium has successfully managed to reduce the manufacturing times for an essential component used in the oil & gas industry.

The 3D-printed part (photo credit: MX3D)

Repair clamps are used to repair certain weaknesses and leaks, reducing machine downtime and maintenance interventions. Repairing a pipeline can currently take up to 3 weeks, representing significant losses estimated at between €100k and €1m. The techniques used are frequently CNC machining, which causes significant losses of the original material, and manual welding, which requires specialist operators who are increasingly difficult to find in the market. The use of metallic additive manufacturing is able to get around such obstacles, providing a local, on-demand and faster production method.

Simon van der Harst, Senior Specialist, Engineering & Manufacturing, at Team Industrial Services, explains:

“Over 90% of the clamps used to plug line leaks at oil & gas facilities are specially designed and manufactured, usually requiring short delivery leadtimes. Assuming it is developed in the near future, the WAAM technology can offer benefits as it generates very little or zero waste when starting from scratch, it minimizes the final machining time, offers more design options and makes us less dependent on the available basic tools and components.”

The clamp manufacturing process

The consortium therefore exploited the advantages of the WAAM technology and selected ASME IIA SA-516-70 steel, a material frequently used in the chemicals and oil & gas industries. It has also been tested by BWI, which concluded that the 3D-printed material conforms with the consortium’s requirements. Once the printing phase is completed, the part is machined to minimize the striation effect and ensure a smooth finish.

The MX3D machine enabled the part to be designed more quickly (photo credits: MX3D)

Thomas Van Glabeke, Project Manager and R&D Manager at MX3D, continues:

“Hybrid additive manufacturing combines the advantages of conventional manufacturing, such as the precision and high-speed production of simple parts, with the benefits of additive manufacturing, such as geometric freedom, production speed and minimum waste material. The quality and complexity of this clamp demonstrate the potential of the technology developed by MX3D.”

Once the part was ready, multiple non-destructive tests were successfully carried out. No defect was detected, demonstrating not only the success of the selected manufacturing process but also the merits of using additive manufacturing in the oil & gas sector. For example, it enables us to eliminate physical stocks by having access to a digital inventory to support all types of repair. This is vital in a sector where leadtimes must be as short as possible. If you would like to know more about the use of additive manufacturing in the oil & gas industry, please do not hesitate to contact our team !