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Additive manufacturing service to transform flow control MRO market


The use of additive manufacturing has the potential to revolutionise in-field control valve maintenance, which can process and industrial plants millions of euros a year in maintenance, repair, and operation (MRO) costs

The impact of high-velocity media within a valve trim is one of the leading causes of cavitation, erosion, and vibration; all of which can combine to cause poor process control, premature failure, and unplanned downtime for critical flow control applications.

Full valve replacements typically incur large opex and capex commitments given the significant logistical requirements. However, a new high-performance valve trim replacement service which combines additive and traditional manufacturing methods is set to radically disrupt the valve MRO market.

Retrofit3D, pioneered by IMI Critical Engineering, focuses on the engineering of bespoke drop-in replacement internal components. These include disk stacks and valve trims (inclusive of seat and plugs), ensuring the body of the valve can remain in situ throughout the process.

The use of additive manufacturing technology represents a significant shift in valve replacement services, as it enables the design and production of parts which would not be possible using only traditional manufacturing processes. Each replacement part can be custom-made to the specific process conditions of the valve in question, in a fraction of the time, weight and cost.

Contrasting like-for-like legacy component replacements, Retrofit3D components integrate IMI Critical Engineering’s DRAG technology, which divides the flow into a series of right-angled smaller passages. The multi-stage, multi-path DRAG technology directs the medium through a tortuous path to incrementally reduce the differential pressure and increase control, preventing the root cause of the original problem from reoccurring.

The service is now capable of producing drop-in replacement trims for valves up to 50.8 cm in diameter and can be used in a broad range of critical pipeline applications including bypass valves and large anti-surge valves. Retrofit3D produces replacement trims for valves manufactured by IMI Critical Engineering, as well as those from other valve manufacturers.

Bertrand Maillon, Retrofit3D business leader at IMI Critical Engineering, commented, “Today’s energy landscape places a great emphasis on reliability, maintenance, and performance. However, full valve replacements can incur significant time and cost for operators, due to the extensive engineering, scheduling, and intervention activity required. Moreover, even a like-for-like replacement of core internal components is no guarantee of long-term success, especially if the maximum flow velocity isn’t initially managed properly within the valve or the original valve trim is no longer suitable for the current process requirements.”

Maillon concluded, “Since launching the service, we have retrofitted more than 200 valves for customers across the power and oil and gas sectors; and we are incredibly excited at the growth potential for additive manufacturing-led flow control solutions.”