3D Printing and its Impact on the Power Industry

By CIOReview | Friday, June 7, 2019

FREMONT, CA: The 3D printing industry is worth $7 billion, up from $3 billion in 2013 and it is expected to reach $20 billion by 2025. Additive Manufacturing (AM) is found to be compatible with various areas of the power industry, both in mainstream and in building prototypes production which led to the simplification of process and operational efficiency. AM produces components by making use of complex geometries, consuming fewer raw materials, less waste production, reduced energy consumption, and reduced time to market. Due to excess pressure on the power industry, manufacturers are reaching out to AM for solutions to reduce cost and save time.

The feasibility of solar power remains for an extended period, but the capacity factor has remained low as much as 17 percent in the best case scenario. The small amount of CF makes it tough to attain economies of scale for bigger solar plants which require subsidies to continue operation for over a period of time. A 3D printer can be used to create solar panels; the technology is still in embryonic stage and researchers from MIT claim that by using additive technology in solar panels, the manufacturing cost can be reduced by 50 percent, and a 20 percent increase can be seen in efficiency compared to primitive solar panels. 3D printed solar panels are light, and it can be transported easily anywhere with fewer chances of damage. AM is anticipated to enable on-site production of turbine components that are specifically designed for the unique needs of the resources of a specified location. AM provides tools to meet the demands for wind turbine spare parts for models that are discontinued.

A team from Harvard is working on a smaller version of Li-ion; a team from Manchester Metropolitan University is working to develop new kind of energy storage system, and researchers from IBM and ETH Zurich have created the first liquid battery through 3D printing known as redox flow battery. The application of 3D printing in producing conventional energy also holds prominent status. R&D works are in progress to test the use of 3D printing in the nuclear industry. In Krisko nuclear plant, Siemens successfully installed a 108mm diameter impeller for fire protection pump. Full commercialization is expected to be achieved soon after understanding the depth of the technology.