Upwing Energy, an innovator and service provider in the field of gas technology, today announced the successful integration of metal additive manufacturing (AM) into its production process. This development is in line with the company’s commitment to utilizing state-of-the-art technologies. Using the Laser Power Bed Fusion (LPBF) process, Upwing has optimized manufacturing times for the use of its Subsurface Compressor System (SCS) in gas wells, while ensuring exceptional quality and durability of the manufactured parts. This has been proven through extensive testing with Velo3D, a metal 3D printing technology company.
Upwing’s patented SCS, which increases the production and recoverability of natural gas from existing wells, utilizes a multi-stage hybrid axial compressor that increases negative pressure at the inlet and boosts pressure at the outlet. The compressor of the SCS is aerodynamically designed to meet specific flow parameters of the well for maximum production gain. The rotor design in particular places high demands on production due to its extremely complex surface geometries. All compressor components are made from Inconel 718.
By utilizing metal AM and Velo3D’s expertise, Upwing can complete the entire process from engineering design to assembly of the SCS compressor rotor in just 10 weeks. Metal AM also enables the creation of more complex designs and offers geometric and material advantages that lead to improved component performance and extended part life. Tensile tests have shown that the material properties of AM Inconel 718 meet the requirements of ASTM F3055 as well as the specific requirements for use in deep compressors.
“All of our work at Upwing is underscored by the belief that continuous improvement is always possible,” said Robert McKeirnan, Vice President of Supply Chain and External Manufacturing at Upwing Energy. “Our decision to integrate additive manufacturing makes us more scalable and adaptable. It allows us to create parts that are not only durable, but intricately designed and finished with the highest level of precision.”
To compare the mechanical properties of the AM parts with those of machined billet parts, Upwing conducted several tests under conditions encountered in the SCS gas compression process. AM parts and billet machined parts were tested at rotational speeds of 55K rpm or higher, which is the operating overspeed for the SCS.
Parts were then subjected to detailed inspection, including the use of dye penetrant inspection to detect surface defects, were checked for balance and inspected for dimensional accuracy. Finally, the parts were subjected to a spin-to-burst test to validate the integrity of each manufacturing method. The additively manufactured parts withstood the standard operating conditions and even exceeded the overspeed conditions by 2.1 times before failure occurred.