Shell and GE Additive 3D print oxygen hydrogen micromixer » 3D Printing Media Network

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Shell International B.V., GE Additive and GE Inventive unveiled the results from a joint engineering and design project: an additively made oxygen hydrogen micromixer. This complex, non-functional, demonstration part, was printed in nickel alloy 718 on a GE Additive Concept Laser M Line system, installed at Shell’s 3D Printing CoE and Workshop, part of the company’s Energy Transition Campus Amsterdam (ETCA) in the Netherlands.

Shell maintains an ETCA 3D printing facility in close proximity to its scientists. It allows partners companies and scientists to utilize additive manufacturing to produce functional parts and prototype them. Having its own printing capability grants Shell’s R&D department the freedom to create novel parts not available on the market, and solve new technical challenges in support of the energy transition.

Joost Kroon, an additive technology subject matter expert at Shell explains, “We really wanted to put the M Line through its paces and test it to its limits. With the GE Additive team, we agreed to use additive technology to reimagine a large and complex part. This included channels that are difficult to produce conventionally. Working on an oxygen hydrogen micromixer aligns well with our companies’ strategies to play a positive role in the energy transition.”

Geometry in Nature: Take your inspiration

Sonali Sonawane Thakker, a lead design engineer at GE Additive’s AddWorks team based in Munich, was tasked with researching, designing and iterating the final design on display at Formnext. The part she was asked to design was complex, large and contained channels for hydrogen and compressed oxygen. Sonawane Thkker was able use the design freedoms offered by additive technology to rethink the part’s structure and shape.

“Once we had settled on a part, our preliminary research showed that existing micromixers – also known as hydrogen-oxygen burners – are typically cylindrical, when conventionally manufactured, to accommodate the complex layout of tanks, pipes and nozzles. For additional complexity we chose a large conical design and also moved from a flat to a curved structure with an ISO grid to increase the overall strength, rather than a customary flat one.”

GE Additive Shell micromixer
(Photo: Shell

Sonawane Thakker took inspiration from the geometries of nature and symmetry, especially the Fibonnaci sequence that is replicated in flowers. “With over 330 individual nozzles to incorporate in a circular pattern, I took inspiration from the ways pollen grains form in a flower head. The curved wall and the conical shape also reflects the shape of a petal,” she added.

Build & post-processing

After several iterations and feasibility reviews by Shell and GE Additive, the design and dimensions were finalized. Nickel alloy 718 was selected as the material.

Dimensions of the part:

  • Height:   ~296 mm
  • Diameter: 484mm
  • Other: X 429 mm Y 490 mm

The build preparation and printing of the part on the M Line was overseen by Lisa Kieft-Lenders, team lead and Dennis Boon, a technician at the Shell 3D Printing Center of Excellence and Workshop.

“We have been involved in the project from the outset and have therefore been particularly close to this build and invested in its success. Given this is one of, if not the largest and most complex parts built on an M Line so far, we’ve remained in close contact with the GE Additive team in Munich and were supported, on the ground here in Amsterdam, by their local field service engineers. After some adaptions at the start, the build ran smoothly over nine days,” said Kieft-Leenders.

Shell facility also handled post-processing. Sonawane Thkker included powder removal holes in the design phase, making it easier to do this. The part was completed in early November and sent to the GE Additive’s booth at the Formnext. Following the event, the micromixer will be returned and put on display at Shell’s ECTA.

“We are confident in the M Line’s ability to perform. It is clear that we are eager to use every opportunity to test it. This project has shown me the importance of collaboration and problem solving. It has brought together some great additive minds and the end result is not only visually stunning, but it is also substantial in size, complex and equally strong,” said Rob Dean, GE Additive’s AddWorks leader in EMEA.

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