Blog: Go with the flow

Blog: Fast, flexible, functional – 3D printing of valve parts

3D printing is opening up new horizons for manufacturers. It allows customers to order devices with new components that can only be realized with 3D printing – and with exceptionally short delivery times. In Metso, we have been taking 3D seriously for years and have now put its potential to use by shipping our first valves with 3D printed components.

Up to the challenge with innovation

Recently, we got an urgent call from a customer having an issue with their current valves in a gas treatment application. They needed new kinds of valves with much quicker cycle speed and an exceptionally long service interval.

We stepped forward to accept the challenge – with a twist of innovation. By using 3D printing, we were able to develop and manufacture complex, cutting-edge components faster, with improved reliability, safety, and valve availability.

Cycle speed and long service interval

The first issue of a very high cycle speed was solved by a special actuator design that met the target values.

Perhaps even more challenging was the second issue of long service intervals combined with exceptionally harsh process conditions. The process temperature ranged up to several hundreds of degrees Celsius together with pressure exceeding 100 bars, created operating conditions very challenging for metallic surfaces.

All this resulted in a total annual cycle count of over 300,000 that does not traditionally fit well within the required two-year maintenance interval. To meet the extreme requirements, we created a new, ultra-robust valve design with special attention placed on the sliding surfaces.

3D printing of valve parts

Fast prototyping is essential in product development and generally requires lots of testing and iterations. This is where 3D printing comes in as a powerful, disruptive tool. We quickly printed prototypes, engaged our rigorous testing programs and, together with our customer, were able to find a timely solution that satisfied their needs.

In the best case, the performance of 3D printed components exceeds the ones manufactured by traditional manufacturing methods – this actually came true in our case.  The current selection of 3D printing materials may present some limitations, but they also provided new opportunities when aiming at reliability, longer service life, and improved safety features of valves.

Such details matter greatly when it comes to making our valves better, particularly for demanding applications with exceptionally long service intervals.

No success without innovation

In our customer case, 3D printing gave us the ability to provide robust new valve components for this gas treatment application, custom-designed to withstand harsh conditions combined with an extended service interval. These were our first valves shipped with printed components. Easy mass customization is also finally possible, using 3D printing technology.

This project was a very elegant combination of customer pull and technology push. Solving customer challenges with the latest technology is at the core of Metso innovation. We continue to seek new opportunities on the 3D printing frontier – and are ready to put our patent-pending applications and experience to work.

 

Watch the video above the text to see 3D printing in action (or here).

Read more: Blog: 3D printing - the ultimate supply chain

 

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Blogger

Jukka Borgman

Director, Technology Development

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