ENGIE launches new 3D printing lab
ENGIE has taken another step forward in its 3D Printing project with the opening of a new laboratory on the ENGIE Laborelec site in Linkebeek. This project aims to study and evaluate 3D printing technology and develop innovative solutions for manufacturing industrial parts.
The new lab will allow ENGIE Laborelec to test several types of commercial and experimental metal powders, print parts made from various alloys and test the final quality of the parts produced.
The ENGIE Group is stepping up its transformation to become a leader in the energy transition. To this end, ENGIE is committed to developing innovative solutions for its customers, and the manufacture of industrial parts by 3D printing is one such solution.
3D printing or ‘additive’ manufacturing creates an object by adding materials or components that are deposited in multiple layers. These layers are bound together by laser to give them a solid shape. This technology differs from ‘subtractive’ manufacturing, which involves removing material to reveal the shape of the desired object. 3D printing offers many advantages in terms of flexibility, speed and logistics. It allows parts to be manufactured locally as and when they are needed, and also saves on raw materials as only the necessary quantity of powder is used.
ENGIE intends to specialise in producing metal parts, which is more complex than printing plastic parts.
A project specifically dedicated to this new technology was launched in 2015 within ENGIE in Belgium. It is led by the following partners:
- ENGIE Laborelec, as an ENGIE Group competence centre, is responsible for research, development and validation of the manufacturing parameters for industrial applications.
- ENGIE Fabricom, which manufactures many metal parts for maintaining or repairing customer equipment, is in charge of industrial production.
- KU Leuven has built up extensive academic expertise in additive manufacturing over more than 20 years.
Two printers, an industrial one in the ENGIE Fabricom workshop in Zwijndrecht and another at KU Leuven, have already enabled the project to validate a printing process using stainless steel powder. This process is now fully operational, meaning that ENGIE Fabricom can offer it as a service to its customers. ENGIE wants to go further and continue experimenting with new nickel, aluminium and titanium based metallic materials, to further enhance its mastery of this technology and the industrial opportunities it offers.
ENGIE Laborelec’s new laboratory will allow it to analyse and test metal alloy powders that are commercially available or in the process of development. The lab also has a third printer capable of handling small volumes of powders, which will manufacture parts from these alloys. The quality of these parts will then be tested in the same laboratory.
Michael Marique, CEO of ENGIE Laborelec: “3D printing will ultimately revolutionise the way a technical facility is managed and maintained. As such, we want to anticipate our customers’ needs and proactively develop the expertise, knowledge and innovative industrial solutions that go hand in hand. This project is the result of a successful collaboration combining basic research with industrial application.”
About ENGIE Laborelec
ENGIE Laborelec is a leading expertise and research centre in the electricity technology sector. Drawing on its workforce of 240 highly specialised engineers and technicians, ENGIE Laborelec covers the entire electricity value chain and helps its large customer base in the generation, transmission, distribution, storage and end use of electricity. The company is focused on the energy transition and its ‘3Ds’: decentralisation, decarbonisation and digitisation.
About ENGIE Fabricom
ENGIE Fabricom designs, builds and maintains multi-technical facilities for companies and local authorities. Many of its solutions improve mobility, safety, distribution systems and the share of renewable energies, as well as operational and energy performance in industrial environments. ENGIE Fabricom and its subsidiaries are active in Belgium, in Europe and in the world. They recorded a turnover of € 1.12 billion in 2016 and employ 5,900 people.
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