Test Your Metal: How Upwing Energy is Disrupting Artificial Lift Technology with 3D Printing

by | November 3, 2023 | Blog

The pursuit of efficient energy solutions is a driving force in the recent innovations of the oil and gas industry. At the forefront of this endeavor is Upwing Energy—a company dedicated to delivering affordable energy with a minimized environmental footprint. One of the company’s groundbreaking creations is the Artificial Lift Subsurface Compressor SystemTM (SCS).

Redefining Artificial Lift: Upwing Energy’s Vision and Challenge

Artificial lift is not a new concept. It refers to the process used in elevating oil or gas from a well using mechanical or other means. Despite its importance, it has historically been an expensive and intricate upstream oil and gas production segment.

Upwing’s system elevates gas from the well’s bottom with striking efficiency, boosting production by up to 200%, enhancing recoverable reserves by up to 70%, and eliminating liquids. Leveraging the SCS has the added benefit of reducing the need for new well exploration, drilling, and completion, leading to significant capital savings and removing greenhouse gas emissions from drilling, fracking, and wellhead compressor use.

While the industry has been tethered to generic solutions, Upwing seeks to champion custom solutions that promise amplified performance and faster lead times.

Its compressor module for global gas well applications is aerodynamically tailored to each well’s specific flow parameters. Crafted from Inconel® 718, the module has seven core components. Five of these, including Inlet Housings, Intermediate Inlet Housing, Rotor Blades, Stator Vanes, and Exit Housing, are designed to match the well’s flow specifics.

Manufacturing such high mix/low volume components often introduces manufacturing headaches involving long lead times.

To meet the SCS Gas Well deployment timelines, three manufacturing methods for these five components were evaluated: wrought stock production, investment casting, and additive manufacturing (AM).

In doing so, Upwing’s goal was to produce these parts within a brisk lead time of roughly seven weeks and determine whether the properties fell within the spec of the intended application.

Tensile tests were also conducted to establish how well the additively manufactured components held up to traditional manufacturing techniques, which have long been viewed as the “gold standard.”

Velo3D’s Technological Prowess: From Production to Performance Testing

Enter Velo3D’s Sapphire XC printer, an impressive example of modern manufacturing technology. With the Sapphire printer, part of Velo3D’s fully integrated metal AM solution, Upwing produced five parts that underwent post-processing through various rigorous procedures, from stress relief to a solution and age cycle. In parallel, Upwing also produced five parts using a CNC 5-axis machined billet to compare the efficacy of both processes.

The ensuing testing process was meticulous and aimed at ensuring utmost reliability. Initially, the rotors were spun at 55,000 rpm, a speed selected to represent Upwing’s overspeed for evaluating each component. This was followed by a rigorous battery of inspections – from dye-penetrant checks to x-ray analysis and dimensional inspections.

The process was repeated at 60,500 rpm and 66,000 rpm across all ten blades to further evaluate each manufacturing approach. This comprehensive testing directly compared Additive Manufactured (AM) and traditionally machined components.

The Results and The Future: A Partnership Poised to ‘Lift’ the Industry

The results were nothing short of enlightening. The high-speed behavior of AM parts and CNC machined parts was astonishingly similar. What stood out was that the AM parts matched expectations and exceeded them significantly. While they comfortably passed the standard conditions at 55,000 rpm, they exceeded the overspeed condition by 2.1 times and even surpassed the average for wrought blades by 11%. The consistency in quality with AM parts was also notably superior.

The case study underscores the transformative potential when innovative energy solutions meet advanced manufacturing techniques. It paints a future where efficiency, environmental responsibility, and economic viability walk hand in hand.

Dive deeper into the intricacies of this collaborative venture and get a more detailed understanding of the results and processes by downloading the complete case study.

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About the Author

Amir Iliaifar

Director of Content

Amir Iliaifar is the Director of Content at Velo3D where he oversees the production and distribution of Velo3D’s global digital content marketing initiatives. Prior to joining the company, Amir worked for a leading professional drone manufacturer, several SaaS companies, and as an automotive tech journalist. He holds a Master of Arts in Digital Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.