Interview: Armin Truebel for Siemens’ first 3D printed steam turbine parts

Following the
award-winning

3D printed gas turbine blade
 of 2017, Siemens has reached another industry
milestone. This time, oil sealing rings have become the first
metal 3D printed parts to be used in an industrial steam
turbine.

Now installed on an ST-300 operating at the JSW Steel Ltd. plant in Salem, India,
the oil sealing rings are the product of years of research,
development and testing between sites in Germany, India and
Sweden.

To learn more about the reasons for adopting additive in these
parts, I spoke to Armin Truebel, Siemens Product Manager
for Industrial Steam Turbine Service.

Metal oil sealing ring for an industrial steam turbine, designed and produced by Siemens using additive manufacturing. Photo via SiemensMetal oil sealing ring
for an industrial steam turbine, designed and produced by Siemens
using additive manufacturing. Photo via Siemens

40% reduction in lead times

Oil sealing rings are responsible for keeping oil separated
from steam inside a turbine using pressurized air. Relatively
complex by design, and initially composed of two parts, the
rings were selected by Siemens engineers for consolidation via
additive manufacturing.

Truebel explains, “Additive manufacturing offers a degree of
design freedom that allowed us to implement design features
that could not have been realized otherwise.”

Through design for additive manufacturing (DfAM), the team were
able to “re-think established components and provide functional
enhancements over the standard design.” Ultimately, the
process led to an estimated lead-time reduction of up to
40%.

“In addition the near-net-shape result of the printed product,”
comments Truebel, “combined with the integration of former
consecutive manufacturing steps in the printing step, we see
the potential to significantly reduce lead times.”

3D printing exceeds performance of traditional
manufacturing 

Siemens has not disclosed the metal additive machine or
materials used to makes the oil rings, however Truebel
confirms, “We decided for an alloy to match – and exceed – the
mechanical and environmental requirements for the part
operation over its lifetime,” and, “The alloy was
processed on a current generation powder-bed based 3D printer.”

In
previous projects
, the company has used both EOS and SLM
Solutions metal powder bed fusion based 3D printers. It also
has an
existing partnership with metal 3D printer manufacturer
TRUMPF
, so the printer used could be one of many different
options.

3D printed nickel supper alloy turbine blades. Photo via: SiemensSiemens’ award winning
metal 3D printed nickel supper alloy turbine blades. Photo via
Siemens

“Generally speaking,” Truebel conlcludes, “for us it is
important that, with the implementation of new design features,
we can achieve better performance in manufacturing and
operation through additive manufacturing.”

Through 3D printing these oil sealing rings, and other
components, Siemens hopes to optimize and streamline its
services in maintenance and repair.

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Featured image shows metal oil sealing ring for an
industrial steam turbine, designed and produced by Siemens
using additive manufacturing. Photo via Siemens

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