DNV certifies Protolabs as the first 3D printing service provider in powder bed fusion technology for energy applications

Source: press release, 20 May 2021

Metal parts being 3D printed using Protolabs’ DMLS additive manufacturing service
Metal parts being 3D printed using Protolabs’ DMLS additive manufacturing service (photo: Protolabs)

DNV, the independent energy expert and assurance provider, has made one of the first awards of its additive manufacturing (3D printing) quality certification to a major international service provider. DNV certification supports the adoption of additive manufacturing (AM) technology for greater cost and efficiency benefits while maintaining safety across the global oil, gas and energy industries.

World leading digital manufacturer, Protolabs provides digital manufacturing services and specialises in the production of custom prototypes and low-volume production parts. Recent growth in customer demand for complex components in high-requirement applications has led the company to evolve its services for prototyping and production.

Protolabs EMEA worked with DNV and obtained ‘Qualification of Manufacturer certification’ for their production facility in Germany. Protolabs EMEA is the first DNV certified manufacturer using powder bed fusion (PBF) technology for energy applications. PBF methods use either a laser or electron beam to melt and fuse material powder together and are ideal for high resolution and geometrical accuracy. This certification work includes a ‘build process qualification’ using a particular metal feedstock material.

The DNV ‘Qualification of manufacturer certification’ was given to Protolabs in accordance with the DNVGL-ST-B203 standard that demonstrated compliance with the standard and its use in the oil and gas industry. Audits and a technical evaluation of Protolabs’ manufacturing facilities and processes were verified according to DNV’s newly released service specification, DNVGL-SE-0568 that provides the basis for obtaining and retaining DNV statements and certificates for the endorsement of facilities and digital products/services, qualification of manufacturers, build processes, parts and part families, AM machines and equipment, and AM personnel.

Additive manufacturing – the industrial equivalent of 3D printing – is an emerging technology which uses 3D model data to fabricate parts, enabling, among other benefits, significant cost and time savings.

By using the superalloy ‘Inconel 718’ – a high-strength, corrosion-resistant nickel chromium – combined with Protolabs’ expertise in Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), the company can produce complex geometries for parts which are exposed to the harsh environments of the oil and gas sector.

The certifying standard, DNVGL-ST-B203, specifies requirements and guidance for the qualification of parts made by AM for the oil and gas and related industries, such as digital and heavy industry sectors. It provides AM supply chains with assurance that the equipment for manufacturing printed parts meets high standards of quality and integrity.

“Additive manufacturing will have a significant impact on the future energy value chain. Producing components that have the same level of quality as conventionally manufactured parts and fulfil the industry requirements is key. I would like to congratulate Protolabs EMEA facility on this achievement,” says Brice Le Gallo, Regional Director, Energy Systems, APAC and Director of the Global Additive Manufacturing Centre at DNV.

Dr Sastry Kandukuri, Senior Principal Materials Specialist in DNV’s Energy Systems Business Unit, says, “I am very happy that our Global Additive Manufacturing Technology Centre of Excellence based in Singapore was able to support Protolabs reach this milestone, as the first certified manufacturer using powder bed fusion technology in their additive process.”

“We look forward to continuing our relationship with them and give other companies assurance and confidence in AM products as their use grows across the energy spectrum,” Dr Kandukuri continues.

Daniel Cohn, General Manager and 3DP Lead for Protolabs EMEA, adds, “As the world’s fastest digital manufacturer, a major goal for us is to produce parts faster and deliver on an even wider envelope of service for our customers.”

“When a finished design enters our online ordering platform it goes through a short feasibility check through our proprietary software and by our expert design team, and then on to be printed. The DNV certification endorses trust in the performance and quality of our products and services. Moreover, the certification assures customers that they can use the additive manufacturing route to unlock decarbonisation benefits,” says Cohn.

DNV is providing AM advisory, qualification and certification services, as well as joint industry projects to ensure AM products, assets, and systems are safe and efficient. By creating trust in this technology, cost- and pollution can be minimised in a way that would not be possible without it.

The company is currently working with more than 60 customers across the additive manufacturing value chain that include stakeholders in their joint industry projects such as

  • The Digital Warehouse JIP to create an assurance framework for digital AM ecosystems and on-demand printing
  • The ProGRAM JIP which focuses on developing requirements for the qualification and production of metallic parts
  • Phase 2 of AM spares JIP to qualify/certify additive manufacturing parts for maritime and oil and gas applications.

DNVGL-ST-B203 is part of a portfolio of DNV AM-related standards and recommended practices for the oil and gas and offshore industries, which can be accessed here.