Additive Manufacturing Investigation and Demonstration for Hydropower Applications

Project ID: 19085
Principal Investigator: David Tordonato
Research Topic: Improved Power Generation
Funded Fiscal Years: 2019, 2020 and 2021
Keywords: None

Research Question

Can additive manufacturing (AM) be used to lower O&M lifecycle costs for unique/custom parts and equipment?

Until recently, AM processes have been characterized by relatively low production rates and high feedstock costs. As technology has improved, the economics have begun to shift to include larger sized applications and lower value parts. Hence, an economic / life cycle cost analysis should be performed for each potential use case identified in the study. It is possible that a high impact part such as a turbine runner could be considered for demonstration in the later phases of the project.

What are the limitations of current AM technology and materials (both technical and practical) as they relate to hydropower applications?

AM processes now include a variety of materials including metals and polymers. The resulting material properties for each part will be dependant on the process parameters. It is important to establish the properties which are required for each use case and compare with what is possible using AM processes. A thorough investigation of material properties, surface finish, and potential failure modes is needed for each AM process and material selected for demonstration. This should also include the investigation into the dependence of properties on the part geometry and process parameters.

The primary objective is to explore use cases identified by research partners (end users). Desired material properties for each part will be determined. The ORNL will assist in determining the appropriate manufacturing process for each part. A materials investigation for each case study is need including:
Fabrication Test coupons of identical material
Coupons from an additional test part if possible (microstructure and properties are dependent in factors such as thermal cycling).
Material properties for the as-fabricated will be compared to requirements.
NDE methods such as UT/RT to inspect for porosity and other structural

Need and Benefit

Reclamation faces the challenge of maintaining aging hydraulic infrastructure across the Western United States.
Many facilities now exceed 70 years in age and some replacement parts have become increasingly difficult to find
may no longer be available. If a part must be custom-fabricated, costs can quickly escalate and Reclamation
resources including craft labor are already stretched in many cases. Outsourcing a critical part with a long lead time
risks costly downtime at a facility. Additive manufacturing, a broad term encompassing technology such as 3D
printing, is experiencing a period of rapid innovation. Production rates, technology and economics are improving
which may allow the technology to become practical for a variety of applications. In general, additive manufacturing
can provide an advantage over traditional manufacturing methods in situations where production of parts is limited
(custom fabrication), where parts are complex and are challenging to manufacture using traditional methods.
While this technology offers promise, there are still challenges to adoption that present a need for additional research:
There are a multitude of AM processes which can be used to fabricate parts using metal, ceramic and composites and
mechanical properties are highly dependent on the AM process. Work is needed to identify to optimal process for
each part.
Existing material and fabrication standards by ASTM and ASME require evaluation for applicability.
The ultimate long term vision is to be able to perform fully automated in-situ repairs to existing equipment and
structures in lieu of the multistep process that includes design, build, replacement. This also includes cavitation
repairs on turbine runners which are currently performed using a manual welding process.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

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Last Updated: 6/22/20