Leaving an imprint on the industry

Sarah Parker Musarra

October 6, 2014

Barry Calnan, 3D printing manager for Houston-based 3d-Printing Solutions, has always seen things differently.

Barry Calnan

“As an engineering designer, keeping an open mind has been my best tool,” Calnan says. “Maybe that comes from being a rock and roll drummer and a painter – I always question why things are the done the way they’re being done.”

Calnan describes himself as having to two turning points in his career, the first occurring when he was working on Bantrel Inc.’s Newfoundland Transshipment Project as a 3D AutoCAD designer. Jokingly, Calnan says that he was dispatched because the company didn’t have anyone else to send. However, he was soon made the company’s youngest electrical plant design system (PDS) CAD coordinator.

This early success helped him hone skills that eventually defined his career path. He continually looked for better and more economical ways to achieve a task. He said that when engineers with three times as many years of experience told him one of his ideas couldn’t be done, he would just respond with, “Why can’t it?”

He also learned how to liaise between the engineers and design or CAD people, which he says can be tough because many people lack experience in both areas.

“Basically, that’s what I’ve done during my entire career,” he said. “I hear what needs to be done and then go back to the design team and work with them to see how it can be accomplished.”

When 3D printing began to take off, Calnan say that the transition into this line of work was a natural one. With his open-minded approach to problem solving, he appreciated having more options afforded to him.

“I’m not a ‘think in the box’ kind of person. Engineering is all about specifications and regulations when you design something. 3D printing takes away a lot of manufacturing restrictions and it opens up a lot of different ways of thinking about a problem,” he says. Following a successful stint in Qatar as Ras Laffan Liquified Natural Gas Co.’s electrical PDS lead, Calnan joined Halliburton where his second turning point occurred when he once again thought, “how can we do this better?”

Charged with designing a downhole tool, Calnan disregarded a typical design process. He used what he calls “the manufacturing freedoms” he found through 3D printing to design a tool that couldn’t be made any other way.

“Normally, you design the pads on a drill sleeve, and then try to change the pads to whatever flow dynamic they are looking for. I designed the flow and then built the tool around the flow,” he said. “I just turned the design process around.”

The engineering team looked at him quizzically, unable to picture what Calnan was describing.

“I had a model printed. I put it on the table and the light bulb just went off,” he said, explaining that the engineers immediately understood Calnan’s solution. In addition to alleviating designers of certain restrictions, Calnan learned that having a 3D printed model immediately available can be a powerful communication and visualization tool.

Ultimately, Halliburton would patent two of Calnan’s designs.

In April 2008, Calnan became a partner in a 3D printing re-seller company, AGS-3D, before joining Subsea Solutions company 3d-Printing Solutions in 2010. Nicknamed the “3D printing evangelist” by his peers, he has traveled the world, as an exhibitor at prominent conferences such as the Offshore Technology Conference on how 3D printing can revolutionize the oil and gas industry.