Pillar 2 – Proof of Concept Laboratory
Monash University has long been a global innovator in materials, manufacturing, and future technology as part of its culture. In the context of ‘additive manufacturing’, a significant investment in infrastructure, personnel, and support, as far back as 10 years ago, has seen Monash lead the way in everything from the science of 3D printing, to end-user products such as the worlds first 3D printed jet-engine, and ‘on call’ custom implants for patients around Australia.
Proof of Concept Centres aim to facilitate and foster the exchange of ideas between University researchers, students and innovators and their industry counterparts. Typically this is achieved through a mix of educational programs, seed-funding, and advisory services, provided in a supportive and open collaborative environment.
Funds are typically not only used for basic research, but to evaluate the commercial prospects of recent discoveries and technologies, via focusing on development of prototypes and products, testing, and market research/industry feedback. This evaluation may lead to industry collaboration, licensing, the formation of a spin-off company, or the abandonment of the technology for commercial application.
Key focus points
- The science behind next generation manufacturing as relevant to oil and gas application (science)
- The use of additive manufacturing for oil and gas applications (technology)
- The partnership with Woodside via linked Additive Manufacturing/3D printing labs, which includes co-investment and skills-transfer from Monash (partnership)
- The exploration of disruptive, early-stage commercialisation opportunities: Products/Technologies (commercial)
Optimising on-demand production of oil and gas components
The current portfolio of metals/alloys used in oil and gas are the so-called corrosion resistant alloys (CRAs). These are nominally ferrous metals with specific alloying including chromium, nickel and molybdenum. The high quality production of such alloys by 3D printing is in its infancy – but is required in order to produce high quality, reliable products for oil and gas. Specific outcomes from such scientific related research upon additive manufacturing using CRAs will allow researchers to:
■ Understand the metallurgy with respect to laser processing
■ Optimise processing conditions to achieve desired product quality
■ Assess post production heat treatments
■ Understand the product properties (i.e. strength, toughness, etc.) – all of which are paramount.
The additive manufacturing of products for oil and gas is unique, in that products may often be large in size, and products are currently produced from large ingots. To this end, there is significant scope for optimisation of the products in at least two areas. This includes:
a) Component design
Are the components required to have their existing geometry or can geometry be changed, material removed, or voids included (where there is redundancy in structural requirements) for light weighting ?
b) Are the correct materials being used?
If manufacture can be additive, as opposed to subtractive, can higher grade materials be used? This means greater strength (less material), greater corrosion resistance (if for example high-nickel Hastelloy can replace stainless).
The above aspects have not yet been explored for the oil and gas sector, and require a partnership in order to jointly identify components where transformational production can be applied. Additive manufacturing not only has the ability to address production, timescales, and readiness, but can also address more demanding environments, or longer life expectancies. Additive manufacturing can also be explored in order to lower the cost of components.
The principal aspect of the Woodside Innovation Centre at Monash is innovation. This will stem from what is a massive investment in infrastructure, a world-class team working on technology relevant to Woodside, and from a collaborative partnership between technology leaders, new and emerging talent, other industry partners and Woodside.
In this pillar, a number of step changes are envisaged, including.
■ Additive manufacturing is not limited to metals. Complex non-metals, composites, and intricate designs are all possible.
■ The reduction of inventory is a significant advantage to Woodside. If high quality, fitness for purpose, and custom components can be produced ‘on-demand’, this allows capital to be reserved elsewhere aside from inventory.
■ The Proof of Concept Lab will provide a window into and constant dialogue with regards to cutting edge technologies and how they can be exploited for enhancing oil and gas.