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Be it rapid prototyping or manufacturing parts for aero-derivative, gas and steam turbines or compressors, they can be designed faster, with increased flexibility, better materials, and optimized efficiency. This way, 3D printing enables cutting edge technologies with reduced time-to-market and quick upgrading of existing assets. Being both a pioneer and a leader in the industrialization of AM, Siemens is in an excellent position to give its customers products and the tools they need for the next generation of power products.
“As an energy service provider, precision and durability of our turbines are absolute necessities for us," says Niklas Lange, project manager at E.ON Energy Projects. "In our experience, additive manufacturing delivers this and even improves performance compared to older models.”
As energy providers seek to improve power production, conventional manufacturing technologies have a harder time meeting the need for more efficient compressors, combustion with reduced emissions or turbines managing higher temperatures. AM helps pushing the technology edge. 3D printing transforms design, by allowing just about any imaginable structure to be created with polymers, metals, or ceramic materials. Even more, Additive Manufacturing virtually demands innovation, as it allows implementing novel geometries that were not possible before. E.g., turbine blades can be cooled by complex internal channels, thereby improving their functional efficiency.
Additionally, AM is fast: It enables rapid prototyping resulting in up to 75% of former development time. And AM is more sustainable by consuming up to 65% less resources, by reducing gas emissions by up to 30% and generally by creating components with longer lifespans. And if a piece as a burner tip needs to be repaired, this process also can be speed up considerably The global market for AM-related materials, machinery, software and services is booming. Siemens intends to help drive this rapid growth by developing next-generation products, engineering services, and digital solutions – comprehensively addressing the entire value chain from design to service.
Case in point: In early 2017 at Siemens’ Lincoln the first successful full-load engine tests for gas turbine blades (SGT-400 Blade 1) completely produced using Additive Manufacturing was achieved. 3D printing facilities at Materials Solutions in Worcester, UK, and in Finspong , Sweden, used Selective Laser Melting (SLM) to design and 3D printed gas turbine blades. It took advantage of the whole technology suite Siemens provides: From the generative design for the digital model to rapid prototyping, a full-scale engine test and finally optimizing cooling designs. All together this resulted in finished blades with a substantially reduced lead time of 75% and minimized risk.
Unsurprisingly, Siemens is in the process of developing AM-solutions not just for turbine blades, but also turbine vanes, burner nozzles, or radial impellers.
In 2016 Siemens has opened the Laser Cladding Center (LCC) in Nuremberg. This welding facility represents the highest process quality standards and promises to significantly reduce the time required to manufacture and repair compressor-, generator-, steam- turbine rotors, casings and hard coating of valve parts. Laser metal deposition (LMD) – also referred to as laser deposition welding – is a well-established process for years. Another example of its use is for tip repair for gas turbine blades from Siemens.
Siemens started investing in AM close to its beginnings in 2009 – and went on to develop the technology especially for power generation. For example, in 2012 Siemens installed the first EOS M280 SLM printer specifically adapted for burner repair. In 2013 the first 3D-printed burner tips and burner swirls were installed in commercial gas turbines. In 2016 Siemens acquired Materials Solutions, one of the world leaders in Additive Manufacturing. In 2017 gas turbine blades were successfully printed and tested. In 2017 3D-printed burners heads were also installed for commercial operation. And in 2018 an oil sealing ring for a steam turbine was additively manufactured and installed.
Today, Siemens continues to drive the industrialization and commercialization of 3D-printing especially in the energy sector. Siemens currently provides a comprehensive portfolio of market-leading solutions to fully digitalize AM, from design and engineering software to cutting-edge simulation tools, full machine and shop-floor automation. Therefore, the company is well positioned to drive industrial AM-technology forward into the future.
Siemens’ current R&D focus is to develop more innovative AM-applications along the whole industrial value chain which are cost-efficient, fast, and seamlessly integrated. Within the next 10 years Siemens intends to support a worldwide printer cloud for spare parts on demand from digital twins. A key driver is the development of components that maximize the efficiency of our power generation products.
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