Skip to Content

3D printing – cutting time, cost, consumption, and CO2 emissions

Luisa Elena Mondora and Matteo Vanazzi from the Italian 3D print start-up company f3nice, one of several innovative companies that Equinor has partnered with in recent years.
Photo: Ole Jørgen Bratland

At Equinor, we are using 3D printing to ensure production of spare parts on demand, reducing lead time and the need for physical warehousing and to improve functionality. Together with our suppliers we will cut time, cost, consumption and reduce CO2 emissions.

Accept Cookies

Want the full picture? We’d love to share this content with you, but first you must accept marketing cookies by enabling them in our cookie settings.

What is 3D printing?

3D printing, or Additive Manufacturing (AM), is a production method where the material is built up in layers, one layer at a time, based on a 3D model to create a solid object.

Products can be printed in both metal and plastic. In recent years, 3D printing has gone from being a sci-fi technology for the future to becoming an industrially available technology.

It is a technology that offers fantastic possibilities and flexibility in production. It can save costs, reduce CO2 emissions, drastically reduce lead time, ensure the supply of otherwise obsolete spare parts, replace physical inventories with digital ones, and provide improved design opportunities. It is a fast-developing technology that is changing the way we work.

Additive Manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing (AM) is a method of producing mechanical parts by adding material layer-by-layer based on a 3D model. There are seven technologies within AM and some of these are 3D printing. Most materials can be used, Equinor has tested Titanium, 316L stainless steel, Inconel 625 and 718 and super duplex in addition to various polymer/composite materials.

AM is an enabler for new ways of working, and Equinor has already experience improvements within operations, maintenance, modifications and projects. One example is how Digital Inventory together with on-demand manufacturing using AM will transform the supply chain.

Why? Additive Manufacturing – an enabler for the Digital Inventory

Additive Manufacturing is where the digital world meets the physical world.

Combined with digital inventory it is possible to order digital parts from anywhere in the world, transfer the files digitally and order local manufacturing close to the site. Equinor has been participating in the development of the Fieldnode Digital Inventory solution and is now collaborating with TotalEnergies, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Vår Energi and Fieldnode to implement digital inventory solutions globally. The Fieldnode Digital Inventory is connected to Equinor’s procurement system and the first digital parts have been ordered, produced, and delivered.

Illustration with the benefits of 3D printing, which are reduce lead time, repair of parts, on-site repair, improved functionality, visualisation, reduced costs, alternative material, temporary fix, digital inventory

How? A typical scenario

A typical scenario would be that if a spare part is needed at an offshore installation, our colleagues could find the part in a fully digital inventory, one of our suppliers can print it, and it can be packed and shipped by drone often in a matter of hours.

For example, if a spare part is needed at the Troll Field in the North Sea, it can be ordered through the digital inventory, manufactured at an on-demand factory close to the supply base in western Norway and transported the last stretch with a drone. If the same part is needed at the Peregrino field in Brazil, it can be purchased in the same way and produced locally, in Brazil with 3D printing.


3D printing is one of the prioritized technologies in Equinor. Our 3D printing strategy is based on four pillars: sustainability, cost efficiency, improved supply resilience and local ripple effects.


3D printing provides opportunities for more sustainable production because it cuts down on waste and the use of raw materials. The combination of a digital inventory with the local 3D printing facilities will cut back on logistics and transportation.

With Equinor’s digital inventory, we can purchase and order a specific part from all over the world. By purchasing a part via the cloud there will be no need for transportation over far distances. The physical part can be produced when the need arises, where you need it.

The plan for the next 3-5 years is to reduce the physical storage by 25%. In 10 years, our goal is to reduce it by 50%. This equates to many tonnes of equipment. Today, this inventory works as insurance in case something happens, and we need a part quickly to assure business. This opens for a completely different mindset that allows us to take out big profits: Fewer raw materials, less consumption, reduced costs/taxation, and reduced er CO2 emissions.

Case example 1: From 4.4 tons of CO2 emissions to only 3.8 kg

Occasionally things break and need fixing at the installations. One example was the broken cooling fan for an electrical motor at Tjeldbergodden, an industrial facility located in the north-western part of the municipality of Møre and Romsdal.

The normal procedure would be to replace the whole motor since the fan was an obsolete spare part. In Norway, this can typically cost about 4.4 tons of CO2 emissions, if you calculate the consumption of raw materials and add the transportation to deliver the fan to the correct location. However, by ordering a fan from the digital inventory and printing it using a local supplier, we will not only reduce cost but reduce CO2 emissions to 3.8 kg of CO2 emissions.

Case example 2: Using recycled materials

The Johan Castberg ship is currently lying at Stord in western Norway in preparation for operation. To avoid delays in this critical phase of the project a mobile 3D printing micro factory has been hired from the Norwegian company Fieldmade and is lying at the docks, a few meters from the hull of the ship. The metal powder used in the 3D printer is 100% recycled scrap metal.

The recycled material is supplied by F3nice, an Italian start-up company that was supported by the Equinor Techstars Energy program, and works within the circular economy for additive manufacturing. They perform a sustainable and innovative process to transform metal scrap into metal powder for 3D printing.

Cost efficiency

Additive Manufacturing has proved that it is an enabler for reduced maintenance cost, reduced warehouse cost, reduced cost related to long lead times and improved performance.

Examples of reduced maintenance costs are the ability to 3D scan, redesign and 3D print any part which is missing or obsolete. Another example is the possibility of repairing components or larger structures by using AM as a repair method. If the component is corroded, eroded, or worn new material can be added with perfect results. This can extend the lifetime of equipment and many replacement projects can be avoided.

By introducing the Digital Inventory, the physical production is postponed until the need is there. Therefore, the physical inventories can be reduced. Finally, reduced lead time of spare parts by using AM has already shown that we can reduce downtime after technical breakdowns. These are all examples of why we use the slogan: “From just-in-case to just-in-time”.

3D print Microfactory

A mobile, temporary 3D print Microfactory from Fieldmade has been installed at the construction yard at Stord in Norway. This to support the Johan Castberg project during the commissioning phase and to build competence within Equinor, Aker Solutions and suppliers in northern Norway. The microfactory is equipped with a 3D scanner, a composite 3D printer and a metal 3D printer.

The largest 3D printed component in the energy industry

A flange used when installing a thruster at the Norne ship. Approximately three meters in diameter and weighing three tonnes. It was 3D printed in Larvik, Norway. The reason for using 3D printing was to reduce lead time from 40 weeks to 10 weeks.
Materials used: steel and inconel.

Supply resilience

By moving the physical production of spare parts to a site close to the end user, delivery reliability will increase.

Additive Manufacturing is one of several automated manufacturing methods which are highly flexible and use a 3D model as a basis for production. A local, on-demand factory can produce a spare part for a pump one day, for a valve the next day, and a part for a fish farm the third day.

By using 3D scanning, 3D modelling, and 3D printing discontinued parts can be recreated. We can ensure faster production time with fewer parts. The technology also ensures greater design freedom. We can 3D print structures that are not possible to produce with other methods, this results in components that are stronger, lighter or have better performance.

Case example 1: From 40 to 10 weeks delivery time

At Oseberg Field Centre there was a great need to replace five hydraulic valve blocks. To solve this challenge, we used a 3D printer. 3D printing a polymer replica was a good way to ensure that the 3D model was precise and correct. The results? Much shorter delivery time. The needed time spent following traditional methods would be approximately 40 weeks. However, using the 3D printer, the need time was reduced to 10 weeks.

Case example 2: A more flexible supply chain

With a fully digital inventory, local and modern manufacturing facilities, and the use of drones for transportation of the 3D printed spare parts, our whole supply chain becomes more flexible, significantly reducing emissions and costs due to fewer resources spent.

These small plastic screws save Equinor 10M USD

The combination of 3D scanning, 3D modelling and 3D printing makes it possible to reconstruct any metal or plastic part. For old equipment access to spare parts is a challenge, AM removes this challenge.

On-site repair

Several test cases have been executed at Equinor’s facilities to use a welding robot, programmed as a 3D printer to reconstruct pipes, flanges, manholes etc. after corrosion. More than 30km of welds have been executed without any errors. This will improve safety, reduce cost, reduce scope in turnarounds and improve sustainability.

Local ripple effects

3D printing enables us to create ripple effects in the local communities where we operate, creating value locally through so-called «homesourcing». Most of the 3D printed parts which have been put in service in Norway have been produced by a supplier in Norway. Equinor is actively supporting the establishment of 3D printing hubs in northern Norway.

With the technology, we can download a design from anywhere in the world – be it at our locations in Brazil, northern Norway, or Canada – and produce it locally with 3D printing. It is efficient for us, and it contributes to communities by creating local jobs.

Case example 1: World record in the industry

At the Norne field, we produced the largest steel and metal object in our industry by 3D -printing. Ship needed to be replaced as part of the maintenance program. To ensure correct functionality the flange had to be changed at the same time. The lead time of a traditional flange was 40 weeks, the 3D printed, 3m in diameter flange took 10 weeks to produce – in Norway. This was made possible due to the collaboration between Equinor, Welmax, DNV and Kongsberg Maritime.

Case example 2: Increased demand for new service functions

With new technology and improved processes, there will be a need for jobs within new and different types of service functions.

3D printing has opened opportunities for welding robots. With this comes an increased demand for service functions such as robot programming, obtaining robots, welding technology, and then executing this work out in the field.

Case example 3: New hubs equals new jobs

Let’s take our work in Norway to exemplify further. To bring this to life locally, we need hubs that can produce the necessary parts locally when ordered. Hubs will be needed in Hammerfest, on the Helgeland coast, in Bergen and in other locations close to our supply bases. With this, there will be new jobs and new value creation that we do not have today.

Digital inventory illustration
Digital Inventory, also called Digital supply Network. This is a way of connecting all suppliers and end users in the Energy industry, and to combine the digital recipe with on-demand manufacturing of spare parts. This will transform the supply chain. Equinor has teamed up with TotalEnergies, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Vår Energi and Fieldnode to develop and implement this globally.

Would you like to learn more about 3D printing?

See a recording of an EquinorTALK session here:

Accept Cookies

Want the full picture? We’d love to share this content with you, but first you must accept marketing cookies by enabling them in our cookie settings.