Realizing the fully automated additive manufacturing workshop of tomorrow

A future is quickly coming that will offer a fully transparent, product-lifecycle operating model where physical components are built better and faster, with more consistency and predictability in quality. From the digital twin of a spare part over the digital workshop to the actual printing process in the AM facility – the concept of an Autonomous Workshop and Digital Warehouse combines digitalization and automation to create new additive manufacturing workflows. 

 

By William Makley

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In additive manufacturing (AM), components are built layer by layer using 3D design data, then post-processed to further refine their specific characteristics. They are rigorously tested and certified for their intended use in a particular application. Selective laser melting (SLM) is one 3D printing technology that deposits layers of sophisticated metal-alloy powders to produce simple and extremely complex products and components for the turbomachinery employed by the world’s energy industry.

AM has just begun to show its potential to fundamentally transform the energy Industry in three key areas:
  • Reimagining products through AM-accelerated innovation cycles that use digital virtual twins and machine learning algorithms driven by artificial intelligence (AI) for faster design iterations and improved product performance.
  • Reinventing manufacturing by streamlining production methods while simultaneously improving durability and reliability of the manufactured components. AM’s potential to create affordable, low-volume production runs can simplify global supply chains and offer faster time-to-market solutions while reducing the carbon footprint associated with production and delivery.
  • Rethinking business. AM will allow greater on-demand and as-needed production methods, eliminating expensive parts inventories that can tie up capital that could be better invested elsewhere. Turbine maintenance can be reduced, and spare parts inventories eliminated. This can dramatically lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) of rotating equipment, improving its availability and utilization, and boosting customers’ returns on their capital investments in these complex assets.

 

AM’s ability to affect all three facets of the industry has led Siemens Energy to develop a new vision for manufacturing that has the ability to revolutionize the production process entirely and a roadmap for getting there.

Realizing AM technology’s true potential in the Autonomous Workshop

Over the past few years, extensive AM testing and development by Siemens Energy Additive Manufacturing and Siemens Digital Industries has laid a foundation for the Autonomous Workshop, a fully-transparent product-lifecycle operating model that vastly improves product quality, consistency and time to market. They also built a roadmap for industries to move beyond the conventional, analog manufacturing model to this higher state of digitalization and innovation through the tactical implementation of new technologies such as digital twins, artificial intelligence or advanced analytics.

 

The Autonomous Workshop includes the Digital Warehouse, where spare-part inventories – a costly requirement for most industries – are replaced with AM-enabled warehouses capable of producing components on an as-needed basis, allowing capital to be better invested elsewhere. 

A future built on practical applications and actionable adoption of AM 

The Autonomous Workshop and Digital Warehouse vision stands on the strategic incorporation of today’s most innovative technologies into the manufacturing process. But where to start?

 

Siemens Energy has developed a five-phase approach to help businesses achieve the full potential of each integrated technology while working up to the highest tier, a fully enabled Autonomous Workshop and Digital Warehouse model. All five stages, along with the specific benefits and use cases of AM are outlined in the Autonomous Workshop Visioning white paper and is a must-read for anyone interested in the current transformation of the energy industry.

June 02, 2020

William Makley is an independent journalist specializing in advanced technology.  

 

Combined picture credits: Siemens

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.

 

Siemens Energy is a pioneer in AM, mainly using Selective Laser Melting (SLM) in its AM workshops in Finspang, Sweden and other locations.