Siemens Energy Technology Application Center - Case Study

Published on : 17 November, 2023

The Customer

Siemens Energy Technology Applications Centre (TAC) stands out as a leading hub for quickly bringing industrial solutions from concept to completion. Leveraging a diverse set of technologies, including robotics, scanning, digital tools, additive and subtractive manufacturing, along rapid prototyping, TAC is dedicated to addressing industrial challenges through design and engineering.

Catering to a diverse clientele while supporting Siemens Energy's global engineering endeavors, TAC has recently incorporated Markforged's Simulation technology into its arsenal. This latest addition empowers engineers to use the Eiger process, enabling realistic testing of component stiffness and strength. This tool allows them to strike a balance between component strength, print time, and cost by optimizing the placement of continuous fiber material in their prints. The result is a sophisticated approach to design and engineering challenges, ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in the industrial sector.

Gas Turbine Vane Fixture

The Challenge

Siemens Energy is at the forefront of producing large gas turbine engines that play a crucial role in generating electricity globally. These engines feature multiple rings of static vanes, directing the flow of hot gases once the fuel ignites. The Inconel vanes, equipped with ceramic coatings capable of withstanding temperatures up to 4,000°F, are a key component. To enhance gas turbine efficiency, Siemens Energy employs The Digital Forge for continuous testing of components and iterating design ideas.

Among the cutting-edge technologies used at the Technology Applications Centre (TAC) to validate new concepts is Hot Air Thermography. This method involves passing hot air through the vane's internal cooling channels, while an infrared camera captures the thermal effects on the part's surface. Engineers analyze the imagery to identify areas of excessive wear or degradation in the ceramic coating, as well as evidence of stress elongation. This meticulous testing approach at TAC contributes to ongoing advancements in gas turbine technology, ensuring efficiency and reliability in electricity generation.

Ensuring the secure testing of vanes, weighing an average of 15 lbs. and measuring up to 3 ft. in length, is crucial as they undergo exposure to air temperatures reaching up to 600°F to simulate engine operating conditions. The significance lies in preventing potential damage that could cost thousands of dollars, with the added challenge of distinguishing between routine engine wear and damage caused by a dropped vane.

Previously, the testing process involved metal and gasket fixtures, a method that took up to 6 weeks for machining, and silicone gaskets that could cost up to $10,000 to mold. Recognizing the need for a more efficient solution, the TAC team transitioned to producing fixtures in Onyx with a high percentage of continuous carbon fiber, ensuring the strength required to securely hold the vanes. While this switch aimed to enhance reliability, it occasionally resulted in longer print times and material wastage – a challenge the team actively addresses for optimal efficiency.

The Solution

Simulation from Markforged has revolutionized the fixture creation process for the TAC team, providing a more efficient and cost-effective approach. When presented with the opportunity to beta-test a version of Eiger that integrated the new Simulation tool, the team seized it as a chance to enhance their custom fixtures' strength and print time.

Through Simulation, the team discovered that designers were often over-specifying carbon fiber in their parts, lacking confidence in the impact of Continuous Fiber Reinforcement (CFR) on strength and stiffness. Simulation addressed this knowledge gap, instilling greater confidence in the team and allowing them to reduce carbon fiber usage by up to 60%, consequently cutting print times by as much as 75%.

Moreover, the TAC team found that Simulation outperformed traditional Finite Element Analysis (FEA) in terms of design optimization, completing the process in a fraction of the time. The user-friendly interface, tailored for Markforged materials, streamlined the application of boundary conditions, enabling efficient structural analysis within the Eiger workflow. This breakthrough in simulation technology has undoubtedly elevated the TAC team's fixture design capabilities.

Robot Arm Backpack

The Challenge

In precise inspection applications, robotic arms play a key role in positioning sensors close to the parts under scrutiny. Enter the "backpack" – a tray perched on the robot's "forearm." This innovative platform houses programmable logic controllers, sensors, air systems, and other components essential for supporting end-of-arm sensors. The Technology Applications Centre (TAC) crafts diverse backpack configurations tailored to accommodate different sensor packages. However, during application development, variations in the number and type of sensors on the robot end effector can necessitate adjustments to the backpack configuration.

The conventional approach of fabricating backpacks from metal poses a challenge – the time-consuming manufacturing process limits how frequently the backpack design can be updated throughout a project. While 3D printing offers a solution for crafting large backpacks, it introduces a new challenge. These 3D-printed counterparts are generally more flexible than their traditional metal counterparts, potentially transferring unwanted inertial feedback to the robot arm. This presents a trade-off that the TAC team navigates, balancing the advantages of 3D printing's flexibility with the need to mitigate unwanted feedback in robotic applications.

The Solution

Crafting robot arm backpacks in Onyx empowers the TAC team to swiftly iterate on the design. They can effortlessly incorporate new mounting points and other essential features for each version. Leveraging Markforged's Simulation, they efficiently attain optimal structural properties, striking the right balance between fabrication time and the necessity for sturdier structures. With Simulation, the TAC team gains insights into potential design weaknesses before initiating the printing process, ensuring a more refined and efficient manufacturing workflow.

The Future

The TAC team enthusiastically adopts Simulation from Markforged, reaping multiple advantages. Firstly, it provides swift and accurate structural analysis of part designs, allowing them to strike a balance between fast print times and the imperative of producing structurally robust components. This valuable data not only informs their internal processes but also serves as compelling evidence when discussing the structural capabilities of 3D-printed parts with customers.

Another noteworthy benefit discovered by the TAC team is the Simulation's ability to assist in determining the optimal print orientation for each part. This decision not only influences part strength but also affects the overall print time, contributing to a more efficient and informed printing process.

Anticipating ongoing advancements, the TAC team is confident that Simulation from Markforged will evolve into an indispensable tool for developing Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D-printed parts, further enhancing their capabilities in the realm of additive manufacturing.

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