Water Journal : Current November 2017
www.awa.asn.au 32 3D printing He said perhaps the greatest potential would be in the replacement of parts within ageing networks. For example, parts that were manufactured more than 100 years ago and for which there are no surviving blueprints. "Remaking parts using the original method is often too expensive so that often means we have to replace a whole component -- say a whole pump -- just because of one damaged part," he said. "But with 3D printing we can re-manufacture a part to the existing specifications." Even better, the replacement part could incorporate improvements, Priest suggested. "You can make it look like the original component on the outside, but on the inside it has all of the advanced technology to improve efficiencies -- current seals, lanes for grease, holds for sensors," he said. As the Australian Water Association's KPMG-sponsored discussion paper on Procurement Maturity in the Water Industry predicted: "The rise of 3D printing is likely to increase the prominence of the 'make-in-house' procurement strategy within category plans, particularly for maintenance, repair and operations spare parts." The report stated that medium-to-long-term opportunities included the incorporation of artificial intelligence to improve predictive maintenance, as well as self-management of spare parts supply. "For example, allowing for smart machines to order their own replacement parts or to trigger the manufacture of them (using 3D printers) prior to machine breakdowns. The time that is currently spent by procurement to complete this task can be diverted to more value-added and strategic MRO procurement tasks," the report stated. And if the water industry doesn't act, others will. According to a PwC study released earlier this year, 85% of spare parts suppliers have said 3D printing will play a dominant role in their business within five years. In the meantime, 3D printing may prove most valuable for prototyping within the water industry, Mohammed said. "With 3D printing, if your design changes tomorrow you can just make a simple alteration to your digital computer file and then realise that product instantly with minimal waste," he said. "That's unlike using injection moulding, where you would have to make quite costly casts in order to just realise a single product." At the end of the day, it's up to individuals and businesses to determine where 3D printing can add value now and as the technology evolves ever-so-rapidly into the future. As GMW's Priest said: "It's not perfect, it's just another tool in your belt." To access the Association s "Procurement Maturity in the Water Industry" paper, visit: bit.ly/discussionpapers FIGURE OUT WHERE THE ADDED VALUE COMES FROM FOR USE OF THIS TYPE OF TECHNOLOGY. MAZHER MOHAMMED, DEAKIN UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATING IN 3 DIMENSIONS Unintelligible lines and numbers on a piece of paper: that's how a lot of people view hydrogeological maps. "They're not very intuitive or simple to understand," said research officer at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development in Western Australia Nick Wright. "It's a bit meaningless unless you're really good at visualising 3D models in your head." So Wright decided to try his hand at converting that information into something real. "I picked up a $2000 printer and plastic from the United States about three years ago and just started trying to print out these individual layers," he said. "What we ended up with was something like a plastic sandwich showing the different layers of the geology and groundwater." At the time, Wright was working on the Department's La Grange Agricultural Opportunities project to develop irrigated agriculture in Western Australia's far north Kimberley region. It was an area where some stakeholders were sinking bores that ended up drawing brackish water due to a misunderstanding of the coastal aquifer. The 3D-printed models proved to be a major breakthrough -- succeeding in communicating information that had been publicly available but frequently misunderstood for years. "Using these handheld models we were able to illustrate how the aquifer was thickest towards the coast and how it thins out to the east," Wright said. "We were also able to show where the saltwater interface was and how it interacted with the freshwater." On the back of that success, Wright and his colleagues expanded the use of 3D-printed models to a project to expand horticulture production in the Gascoyne region, near the coastal town of Carnarvon. "Roughly only every third bore was getting good water and supply, which is pretty inefficient," Wright recalled. "The 3D model was a useful tool to say to stakeholders, 'The underground geology is quite variable. You need to have a good understanding of where your target unit is so you don't waste money by under or over drilling your hole'," Wright said. With this greater understanding, the number of successful bores has greatly increased.
Current August 2017