Call: 503-943-2781

Shell Uses Rapid Prototyping to Improve Planning, Reduce Cost & Increase Safety of Deep Water Project

April 20, 2016
Rapid Prototyping Uses

Photo Credit: Shell/

2D engineering drawings fail to capture the minds and hearts of lay people.  I remember Nabisco engineers willingly sharing their blue prints with production employees to coax their input and buy in to equipment designs and line lay outs.  These machines and lines can cost millions of dollars, so there’s a real need to “get it right the first time.”   Invariably there would often be miscommunication and frustration when both parties thought they were getting what they needed only to discover when the equipment was delivered and the line was installed that they had missed the mark – sometimes quite literally.  One time, the operator was on one side of the line and the controls were on the other!

Now, 3D printing and rapid prototyping allow stakeholders to physically see, touch and manipulate what is being proposed.  They can more easily assess what will work and what won’t, saving time, money and aggravation.

In one such situation, Shell Oil recently produced a prototype that allowed the firm to design and construct an elaborate buoy.  As one executive explained

“that for the offshore crews in particular there are challenges due to the high cost of installation. Patterson also says that their crews in ‘the Americas’ have been exploring 3D printing for prototyping. Upon working in the Stones project in the Gulf of Mexico—about 200 miles southwest of New Orleans—engineers were faced with how to put together enormous blocks of syntactic foam into a buoy that would need to disconnect to an FPSO (Floating Production Storage and Offloading) vessel area at what is going to go down in history as the world’s deepest water installation at 2,900m of water.

Can you imagine hauling something that large, expensive and complex out to sea only to discover it didn’t work as engineered?  This is a great example of why rapid prototyping was one of the earliest applications of 3D printing technology.

If you are interested in learning more about how rapid prototyping can improve your next project, please contact RapidMade.

View Latest Posts