5 ways 3D printing can add risk

A part flies off a production line, causing damage and downtime to the operation. While the machinery was originally imported from Europe to North America, with changing technology, the part is now redundant and its replacement near impossible. An obvious and now more common solution is to 3D-print the object, reducing downtime, lost revenues and extra expense.

However, as with all emerging technologies, 3D printing presents new challenges to the insurance industry.

Here are 5 ways 3D printing can add risk:

1. Some 3D printing processes are hazardous

Some 3D printing processes, especially metal printing, can be highly hazardous. One example is the Powder Bed Fusion method, which fuses powdered raw material into a solid using a laser’s heat. The industrial gases, metal powders and high-energy lasers create potential fire and safety hazards.

2. 3D printed parts can fail

An increasing number of machines are being repaired with parts printed with materials which are not identical to the original. Although mechanical engineers are familiar with the properties of metals coming out of steel mills, there is less certainty surrounding the properties of 3D ‘metal’. An equipment breakdown loss situation could arise if a 3D printed replacement part is used beyond its capacity.

3. 3D printers can break down and cause widespread electrical damage

3D printers themselves are ‘insured objects’ and subject to equipment breakdown perils.

A recent claim involved an obsolete print head, which caused an overvoltage condition, damaging 62 of the insured’s electrical outlets. This caused damage, considerable downtime and a complete loss of the 3D project.

4. Liability shifts if there is an accident

If an accident is caused by the 3D printed part, the liability could shift from the original manufacturer to the creator or vendor of the 3D file; the producer of the printer or the software; the supplier of the materials used; or the person creating the object; depending on where the defect originated.

5. Traditional testing and inspection methods may not apply to 3D printed parts

Conventional testing and inspection methods do not always work on 3D printed parts. Compared with well-established industrial standards in traditional manufacturing, the development of standards for 3D printing is still in its infancy.

How is HSB BI&I involved?
HSB BI&I has embraced industrial 3D printing and is actively involved in ASME’s new Special Committee on Use of Additive Manufacturing for Pressure Retaining Equipment, whose mission is to develop technical guidelines addressing materials, design, fabrication, examination, inspecting and testing.


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