With the PERL, using additive manufacturing to catalyze innovation
- The FabLacq was created in 2020 at the Platform for Experimental Research in Lacq (PERL), by the Physics and Methods for Energy (PME) team.
- By networking with key players in additive manufacturing, the team is creating part prototypes and experimental developments.
- More and more users in R&D programs are being won over by its creative, fast and cost-effective solutions.
In 2020, the PERL, which is developing internationally acclaimed scientific expertise in the Lacq Basin, is investing in additive manufacturing, considered as a process of the future. It has bought a scanner and three 3D printers. The challenge is to provide increased support to researchers and make a faster transition from idea to application. "Before FabLacq was created, additive manufacturing was outsourced," explains Michael Levant, R&D engineer in charge of the PME laboratory. "We had all the competencies to design an experimental part or assembly, choose the materials, run the tests, in particular for microfluidics (science and technique for handling fluids at micrometric scale)…but we were wasting a lot of time owing to a lack of knowledge in additive manufacturing."
Thorough knowledge of the entire 3D printing process
Depending on the environment (pressure, temperature, contact with solvents, etc.) and the expected resistance, parts can be printed either by Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM technology) or by stereolithography (SLA technology). "We now have a thorough knowledge of the entire process, from the idea at the test bench through CAD design, drawing software, the choice of polymer, additive manufacturing and mechanical treatment to adjust the part, the test bench to make sure that it corresponds precisely to the technical specifications," Michael Levant explains. "Having a printing laboratory on site makes the team more agile," affirms Mathias Questel, a research technician. “In just 24 hours, we can move from idea to part, which is crucial to prototyping".
Developing the "FabLacq" response and research on printable materials
In two years, the FabLacq, which works as part of a network with other TotalEnergies entities in Pau (MakerLab at the CSTJF) and in Lyon (CRES), has become an example for emulation. "Additive manufacturing is increasingly being seen as a fast, low-cost solution to support maintenance, prototyping, the improvement of basic equipment, and research & development," the researchers observe. Requests are on the rise, and reflect growing interest. In 2020 for example the Angolan affiliate needed to have an expander plug made. It was an urgent request as their usual supplier had announced long delivery times and the platform was shut down. In just a few days, an initial "made in PERL" prototype was created and tested in high pressure conditions. "Prototyping is crucial to innovation - we also work hand-in-hand with researchers for whom we provide imaginative solutions," underlines Mathias Questel. In 2022, the FabLacq kicked off its own research project on printable materials in partnership with CANOE (Nouvelle Aquitaine Technological Center for Advanced Composites and Materials). "The idea is to explore a broad spectrum of materials, test them and make those that are not printable, printable." And the ultimate aim? To create qualified filaments, with specific properties as regards biodegradability and the capacity to withstand pressure and temperature, according to the demanding technical specifications of the R&D project. Other FabLacq projects: "To develop our know-how on new materials, support researchers at the PERL in designing new studies, and continue to develop internal and external partnerships".