Why 3D printing is one of the keys to unlocking Scotland’s sustainable economic recovery - Lampros Giourntas

As a country with generations of engineering expertise and a large, untapped potential in renewables, Scotland is well placed to become a world leader in navigating the energy transition. To deliver on this ambition, investing in people and technology development will be vital, not only for driving long-term sustainability for many businesses, but also in support of Scotland’s vision for a Just Transition.

The Subsea Centre of Excellence, a 35-acre campus in the coastal town of Montrose, is a thriving example of how Scotland is investing in people and technology development to play a lead role in the energy transition. Following a £31 million investment by Baker Hughes – and a £4.9m grant from the Scottish Government – the engineering and manufacturing technology centre innovates some of the most advanced subsea technologies globally as well as hosting a dedicated training facility and apprenticeship scheme to develop the sector’s future engineers and retain talent.

Pioneering capabilities

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Central to the Centre’s capabilities is its world-leading non-metallic additive manufacturing expertise (also known as 3D printing). As the largest facility of its kind in Scotland, the centre’s pioneering work with additive manufacturing in the energy industry is not only delivering greater efficiencies to customers but has also catapulted the facility’s reputation – both regionally and internationally – renowned for its continuous innovation and investment.

The additive team in Montrose have been working on light weighting projects that aim to reduce the carbon emissions of test and assembly processes as well as the production processes. A big initiative has been sparked over the last two years to replace metal tools with non-metallic 3D printing tools, such as plastics, offering lighter products without losing their functionality and reliability. The facility’s ability to significantly improve quality, enhance lead times and reduce materials waste and shipment weights, is making 3D printing an essential asset for many companies seeking to drive carbon reduction.

While the centre was originally envisioned to support Baker Hughes in delivering lower costs, increasing productivity and simplifying subsea development, the facility has excelled beyond all expectations. Notably last year, the team recognised its capability to support in a Covid response project and assist local communities. Within 24 hours of assignment, the Montrose team had transformed its printing facility to create thousands of visors for NHS Scotland and care homes. In another project, the team at Montrose were tasked with manufacturing 40 exhaust valves for the Scottish Ambulance services – 3D printing allowed for successful completion within 48 hours.

The future of Montrose

Like many businesses impacted by the disruption of the pandemic, Baker Hughes had the difficult decision of making workforce redundancies to safeguard the future of the facility. As the largest facility for non-metallic 3D printing in Scotland, the centre is a lifeline for continuous innovation, as well as being an incubator for learning and a contributor to the local economy. As the sector recovers, facilities such as these will play a vital role in helping businesses thrive once again, advance engineering skills and provide exciting career paths all while supporting Scotland’s energy transition

Lampros Giourntas, Lead Additive Engineer, Oilfield Equipment at Baker Hughes

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