Eric Duchesne: Additive manufacturing can unlock additional performance
When we think of digitalisation in the context of plant operation, the initial focus is usually on how data can be used for optimisation. This is normally interpreted as maximising asset availability but there is another more fundamental area where digitalisation can improve a process, and that is additive manufacturing.
“So much of plant or asset design has been constrained by conventional manufacturing techniques, but with 3D printing it is possible to design new parts which will improve plant efficiency. At Total we are encouraging suppliers to embrace 3D printing and as a company we too are looking for ways of using asset and process data as clues to where new products can be designed which can provide efficiency gains.
3D printing also impacts on the way in which spare parts are manufactured and stored. Designs can be stored digitally so a given part could be produced locally thereby reducing stock inventory and improving the supply of part on a just-in-time basis. Research is still being conducted into the long-term performance of such parts but we believe that there will be gains both in product quality, together with product strength and weight reduction.
A new breed of R&D engineers is required, engineers that will be able to design free from the constraints of conventional manufacturing techniques. Already in industry, 3D printing is having a huge impact, particularly in the aerospace sector, with many components being designed with greater strength and at reduced weight. Big data can provide clues to the areas where 3D manufacturing can be used to enhance efficiency. Ultimately digitalisation, data analysis, big data and machine learning will help us define more efficient equipment.
It is important that there is strong collaboration within the industry, were examples of best practice are shared as this will accelerate our learning”.
Read more of Eric Duchesne’s thoughts on digitalisation here: Is Digitalistion the key to remote plant operation?