3D Printing FEA Results to Demonstrate Actual Product Performance

by Mitch Bossart, Industry Writer for GoEngineer

GoEngineer’s 3D Printing and FEA Solutions enable RFG Petro Systems to Outpace Oil Industry Competition

RFG Petro Systems aspires to do more than simply design and manufacture rod guides for oil production wells – it plans to redefine the entire industry. “We do a ton of engineering on our products,” says Jon Martin, RFG product marketing manager.

The company also takes the time to teach its clients the science and technology of its products, including the technical reasons for the drastic increase in performance and product life that RFG users realize.

The rod guide essentially slows the wearing process that happens to “sucker rods” on an oil pumpjack (also called a “nodding donkey” or “rocking horse” for obvious reasons).

“Oil wells are not perfectly straight,” says Martin. “The drill bit tends to ‘walk’ as it penetrates the earth, so there are always slight deviations.” Across a well that is two miles deep, these variations become problematic because the metal rod will either wear a hole in the tubing or eventually break.

Buckling Problems

The company relies on GoEngineer for technology solutions to optimize rod guide performance. “I was recently doing a buckling compression analysis in SOLIDWORKS Simulation of a sucker rod, and I could not get it to solve,” says Martin.

Buckling analyses can be challenging to set up and solve because buckling is an unpredictable behavior, which means numerous constraints and limitations are needed for the finite element analysis (FEA) to produce the most accurate results.

Creative Solutions

GoEngineer Manufacturing Applications Engineer, Arvind Krishnan, created a customized two-day training class to help RFG engineers address issues specific to their oil industry application.

“GoEngineer is always prepared to address our questions with solutions that we can implement right away,” says Martin.

On one of those visits to the GoEngineer office in Dallas, Texas, Martin saw something in Krishnan’s office that fascinated him: a 3D printed football helmet that illustrated impact variations in full color. Martin immediately wanted to try the same thing on his products and FEA simulations.

Demonstrating Value

“The 3D prints of the rod guide’s stress analyses are a creative solution to demonstrate – with something that people can hold in their hand and spin around – potential sucker rod behaviors related to deviation and compression in the rod string,” says Martin. When a rod is held in tension, everything looks the same regardless of who makes the rod guide. However, the moment you introduce compression and strain, buckling becomes a huge factor, because the rod is 3/4 inch in diameter and 25 feet long.

This creates stress concentrations at any stiff regions along the rod, both the sucker rod forging upset and the areas where rod guides are molded on and around the rod, regardless of rod guide material. These stress concentrations lead to accelerated fatigue on the steel rod body, eventually leading to a “rod part” (broken rod), as well as broken or de-bonded and slipped plastic guides.

Materials Matter

RFG’s rod guides are made of stronger, longer-lasting material, and 3D printing the results of an FEA analysis is a creative way the company can market its products and showcase technical expertise with a physical model that people can touch and see. Because RFG’s rod guides are thermally and mechanically stable, they stay in place and last longer unlike those of their competitors’ which are made of materials that erode rapidly, crack, move, or deteriorate in heat and fluid.

“When we do a presentation for a customer, they don’t care about rod guides like we care about rod guides. But once we teach them about the science and technology behind our products, we can prove to them why our rod guides last about five times longer than everyone else’s. The 3D printing drives home our advanced engineering and technical expertise wherever we go.”

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