C. Ritchie, K. McNeil
Keywords: layered, pipe, tube, custom sizes, lightweight, lightweighting, additive, insulation, manufacturing, cost optimization, copper, stainless
Summary:Techreo, Inc., a U.S. based small business technology startup, has developed a technology titled Layered Tubular Structures (LTS), whereby we wind metal sheets over a cylindrical mandrel to generate pipe-like structures of nearly any size. Leveraging Techreo’s extensive experience in winding/unwinding sheets of material in the commercial sector, LTS is capable of readily switching materials as the structure is formed. This process is highly analogous to metal additive manufacturing but, rather than particles of material, we are adding layers, with a build-rate >1,000 times that of DMLS. This approach generates significant possibilities/advantages: - Insulation incorporated into the pipe wall (avoids external insulation, external condensation) - cost optimized corrosion resistant materials on the inner surface and less expensive materials across the thickness of the structure wall (picture a stainless / carbon / stainless sandwich) - Lightweight materials across the structure wall (strength to weight) - Customizable sizes in small lots – any internal diameter (size of mandrel), any wall thickness (number of wraps) - It is possible to manipulate the sheet before wrapping to create voids in the wall to further reduce weight, and generate other benefits. Process - based on the prototypes created to-date, the manufacturing process will: 1. wrap layers of metals on a mandrel, change materials as desired 2. weld or apply adhesive to seal all edges 3. include insulating material between layers if desired 4. remove the mandrel 5. execute any finishing steps (e.g., inspections, prep ends for butt welding, etc). Commercial Opportunity - On a purchase price basis, preliminary analyses show LTS to be economically viable vs. larger (>6”) stainless pipes. Today, costs increase sharply with diameter. With LTS, larger sizes require a larger mandrel (only). - When the application requires insulation, the economics are very favorable. When one considers the life cycle cost of maintaining external insulation (replaced every ~2 years), the economic case is significant. - Size of market: In 2018, the total global market for stainless steel pipes and tubes was ~ $32B. Sectors of interest include: Oil & Gas, Food, Pharma, and Military. - Non-piping market: the dimensional and material flexibility of LTS structures allows for custom/small lot production. Sectors: Military designs for fighting vehicle and ship light-weighting, personnel protection. Material choices: there are thousands of cold-rolled sheet metal choices available – we believe any can be used - thereby opening up design possibilities no currently available. Patents Filed – Techreo has filed several U.S. patents in this space. Outlook – There are significant challenges in these new processes, which is why this has not been achieved before – but our team’s 100+ years combined experience in related industries has led to several successful prototypes and emerging production methods that appear to be feasible and cost effective. We are actively seeking partners to enable the next phase of development.