In Norway some big names have come together to overcome one of the biggest hurdles facing additive manufacturing, namely ensuring intellectual property is protected when 3D printers whirl into action.
In an important development for the O&G sector and potentially the shipping sector too, Norwegian start-up, Fieldmade, has entered into a joint industry project (JIP) contract with Equinor and Siemens Energy. The JIP will involve the development of a digital inventory ecosystem, bringing together original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and end user perspectives – allowing the rapid production of spare parts, and also ensuring that intellectual property is protected. It should also act as a proof-of-concept for similar energy sector collaborations.
Majors, contractors, and OEMs need to see this as an opportunity rather than a threat
Fieldmade CEO, Christian Duun Norberg said: “Additive manufacturing has now developed to the point where we can print most of the critical parts the energy sector end-users like Equinor need. As long as there is a digital file of a part, we can reproduce it. This reduces the need for large spare part inventories, it increases the lifespan of equipment at risk of being obsolete, and greatly reduces the length of the supply chain and the potential length of down time.”
Brede Lærum, Head of additive manufacturing strategy and implementation at Equinor said: “Equinor has been a driving force for the modernisation and digitisation of the O&G spare parts supply chain, but to really get full value out of this technology we have needed to work with like-minded OEMs and manufacturers. Additive manufacturing and digital parts libraries will result in cost savings through smaller inventory volumes and reducing costs and risks of late life and obsolescence.”
Norberg concluded: “The significance of this JIP cannot be understated. Additive manufacturing and digitisation are going to profoundly change the way every energy company operates. Majors, contractors, and OEMs need to see this as an opportunity rather than a threat, because the advantages and flexibility this offers are unprecedented.”
With the fourth industrial revolution currently reaching the manufacturing industry, a whole new discussion on IP rights is taking place. Digitalisation does not only involve copyright, it also involves patents and designs, which have in the past generally not been part of similar discussions.
Recent industry reports have also noted that artificial intelligence will also play an increasing role in additive manufacturing adoption. Machine learning could eventually give 3D printers “eyes” (machine vision) and “brains” (closed-looped feedback) to help advance the processes and improve cost, speed and reliability.