3D Printing and Equipment Breakdown Insurance

As an emerging technology, 3D printing brings opportunities to equipment breakdown insurance. It opens up a new way of repairing existing equipment since failed parts can be printed and replaced by 3D printed substitutes quickly. In some cases, it can take a long time to get regular replacement parts but an on-demand, 3D printed part can solve this problem. If the equipment is too old and the replacement part is impossible to find, 3D printed parts can extend the equipment life. Using this method can help restore equipment functionality quickly and reduce business interruption losses.

For the insurance industry, the adoption of 3D printing technology can pose some new challenges that require attention. The Insurance industry needs to take into account the uniqueness of 3D printing over traditional manufacturing to provide proper risk solutions for 3D printers, 3D printed equipment or equipment containing 3D printed parts.

Liability and property

Some 3D printing processes, especially metal printing can present hazards. For example, the Powder Bed Fusion method (PBF) has safety hazards from industrial gases, metal powders and high-energy sources such as lasers.

Business interruption

Machine breakdowns during 3D printing processes can cause business interruption losses. For example, the leading cause of losses for HSB, both from a frequency and severity standpoint, is electrical failures. A power quality event such as voltage sag or loss of power during a build might cause downtime or a complete loss of the 3D project. The material in the printer must be cleaned up, removed and replaced.

Equipment containing 3D printed parts

Equipment containing 3D printed parts has a larger impact on equipment breakdown insurance. The completely 3D printed machines or equipment have not yet become mainstream but an increasing number of machines are being made or repaired with 3D printed parts, especially metal parts. Metal 3D printing is a process of reconstructing materials at the point of use. These reconstructed materials are often not isotropic in their physical properties and this can create uncertainties in material properties over traditional bulk metals coming out the steel mills. Additional history and data will be needed for a better understanding of reliability and risk. Unknown failure modes will be discovered with more applications and help to influence the evolution of new industrial standards for 3D printing.

Inspections

Mechanical integrity experience that was learned from traditional manufacturing might not be applicable to 3D printed parts. Conventional non-destructive testing and inspection methods do not always work on 3D printed parts but extensive research activities are currently underway to solve this problem.

The key to navigating through challenges and prospering from opportunities is industrial codes and standards. 3D printed parts should bear with them proof of conformity using industry-recognized materials, processes and quality standards. Currently, the lack of codes and standards is an issue that slows industrial 3D printing development. Compared with well-established industrial standards in traditional manufacturing, standard development for 3D printing is still in its infancy. Codes and standards will greatly promote the technological advancement, cost competitiveness, efficiency and quality control of 3D printing. When the gaps in standardization are closed, industrial 3D printing will spread much wider than its current applications.

The ASME BPV code pioneered by Hartford Steam Boiler has become a cornerstone of the modern industry. HSB has embraced industrial 3D printing and is actively involved in ASME’s new Special Committee on Use of Additive Manufacturing for Pressure Retaining Equipment. The mission of this committee is to develop technical guidelines addressing the pressure integrity governing the construction of pressure retaining equipment by additive manufacturing processes. Scope of these guidelines will cover materials, design, fabrication, examination, inspecting and testing. Working with other members of the committee, HSB is supporting specific tasks like developing print quality control methods. Just like how HSB has contributed to other Boiler and Pressure Vessel codes, this will once again reinforce HSB’s position as an insurance industry leader on this new technology

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© 2019 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice. HSB makes no warranties or representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the content herein. Under no circumstances shall HSB or any party involved in creating or delivering this article be liable to you for any loss or damage that results from the use of the information contained herein. Except as otherwise expressly permitted by HSB in writing, no portion of this article may be reproduced, copied, or distributed in any way. This article does not modify or invalidate any of the provisions, exclusions, terms or conditions of the applicable policy and endorsements. For specific terms and conditions, please refer to the applicable endorsement form.

Wei Zhang

Wei Zhang is a Principal Engineering HSB's Equipment Technology Lab located in Hartford, CT.

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