Infrastructure

Siemens and E.ON achieve significant 3D-printing milestone for energy sector

World’s first 3D-printed burner for an SGT-700 gas turbine has been in operation for a year at E.ON combined cycle power plant

Siemens, the global technology firm, and E.ON, one of the world’s leading utility companies, have announced a significant milestone being reached in the area of 3D-printing for the energy sector.

In a statement, Siemens said that the world’s first 3D-printed burner for an SGT-700 gas turbine has been in operation for a year at E.ON’s combined cycle power plant in Philippsthal in Hessen, Germany.

It added that the results seen so far have been impressive, with the burner operating for more than 8,000 hours with no reported issues. The technology giant began printing gas turbine burners using selective laser melting technology in 2017. These were the first burners produced by its intelligent burner manufacturing (Ibuma) program in Finspång, Sweden.

Each burner head is manufactured in one piece, compared to traditional methods that required 13 individual parts and 18 welds, it added.

Furthermore, Siemens explained that it had incorporated design improvements, such as the pilot-gas feed being part of the burner head instead of the outside fuel pipe, which allowed the operating temperature to be kept lower, thus contributing to a longer operational lifespan of components, and ultimately, the gas turbines.

The statement added that Siemens has been working side-by-side with E.ON, terming them as ‘co-creators’ on the project, with both sides realising benefits, such as the tech giant accelerating the development of innovative design and manufacturing technologies, while the latter is benefitting from those innovations at an early stage.

“As an energy service provider, precision and consistency are an absolute requirement for us,” said Niklas Lange, project manager at E.ON Energy Projects.

“Additive manufacturing not only delivers this, but in our experience, it can even improve performance compared with older models.

“We like to help drive innovation,” remarked Lange. “When I saw these burners from Siemens in Sweden, I knew we could benefit from using them in a commercial turbine. It’s also important to note that our hands-on collaboration with Siemens has been a key to deliver performance to our customer,” he stated.

He pointed out that additive manufacturing is transforming the development and production process for components, not just in the automotive and aerospace industries, but also in the energy sector.

“For example, it can be difficult for conventional manufacturing technologies to produce more efficient or low-emission turbines with higher temperature tolerances. 3-D printing now makes it possible to produce almost any structure imaginable.

The process allows turbine components like gas turbine blades and vanes to be cooled through complex internal ducts, which improves their efficiency,” he noted.

Vladimir Navrotsky, the chief technology officer for Siemens Power Generation Services, Distributed Generation, said that he was excited about the future of additive manufacturing and highlighted Siemens’ leading role in accelerating its use.

“These early results from the Ibuma burner with E.ON validate our belief that this technology is a game-changer. We appreciate E.ON’s active participation and commitment to driving innovation and look forward to our continued close collaboration,” Navrotsky said.

Siemens began investing in metal 3D printing back in 2008 and developed the technology specifically for power generation. In 2012, the German group installed the first EOS M280 SLM printer and adapted it for burner repairs.

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