3D printed spare parts create new possibilities for electricity networks maintenance
In addition to the systematic modernization of electricity networks, distribution companies need to take care of their network maintenance. Rebuilding investments take years, so maintaining existing electricity networks plays an important role in ensuring the functioning of the electricity system.
As a fully functional older electricity network comes up with spare parts needs it is not always possible to find new matching components. Empower has had good experience of 3D printing as a solution to create new spare parts for maintenance purposes of electricity networks and their equipment. It is possible to replace different components with 3D-printed spare parts quickly and safely and for example without the need for a larger equipment renewal.
Empower develops its technology solutions based on strong domain competence and years of industry experience. The company's goal is to generate added value for its customers by developing a digital layer on top of core competence. For maintenance purposes this translates e.g. into using current technology to provide spare parts that would otherwise be challenging to obtain.
– In the future, 3D printers will become more common and faster and the printed material will be even versatile. This makes it possible to print spare parts closer to the actual maintenance site and to the right need, says Otto Norokorpi, Maintenance Manager at Empower.
Especially in a situation where it would take weeks or months to obtain a spare part, utilizing 3D printing is preferred to prolong the lifetime of electricity network until the planned rebuilding investment.
Empower has successfully utilized 3D printing in maintenance of Elenia's Säynätsalo substation to upgrade small plastic parts. In the planned maintenance work of the substation, the plastic parts of the old oil breakers were found to be in poor condition and were later renewed only within 24 hours by the spare parts produced by 3D printing.
– 3D prints are a new thing for us and so far this new technology has just been tested. Substations are often exposed to variable and extreme weather conditions and thus all materials must be very durable. Similarly, the mechanical stress on the circuit breakers is so high that not all parts can be replaced by printouts, says Sampsa Kangas, responsible for the maintenance of substations at Elenia.
With the 3D-printed spare parts installed in Elenia Säynätsalo substation, there were no abnormal breaks in electricity distribution and at the same time the conducted maintenance prevented the possible environmental risks related to the substation equipment oils. The official spare part for the circuit breaker was no longer available and the alternative would have been a larger equipment renewal. With 3D-printed spare parts the maintenance was done efficiently.