Researchers develop 3D printer capable of manufacturing large parts using powder bed fusion technology


[Courtesy of the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute]

SEOUL – South Korea’s state-run nuclear energy research organization has claimed to have developed the world’s first 3D printer capable of manufacturing meter-long parts using powder bed fusion technology that uses either laser, thermal energy or electron beam to melt and fuse powdered material together. 3D printing technology has been integrated with nuclear technology to seamlessly design complex structural parts.

Powder bed fusion (PBF) technology is useful for the production of high value products that are not technically feasible with a traditional method. Molten powder can be solidified and stacked in layers. However, there was a limit to its use at industrial sites because the size of parts that can be made with PBF equipment does not exceed 50 centimeters (19.7 in).

A research team led by Kim Hyun-gil from the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) has paved the way for the commercialization of PBF technology by developing a 3D printer capable of manufacturing parts up to 100 centimeters wide and 50 centimeters long. The institute predicted that the development of a printer capable of manufacturing parts of several meters is possible.

“We hope it will be applied not only to high-tech nuclear technologies, but also to the manufacturing of large parts in other industries such as energy, environment, defense and space,” said Park Won-seok, director of KAERI, in a statement. February 24. Kim’s team cooperated with CSCAM, a company specializing in metal cutting machinery, to manufacture five kinds of nickel alloy test products and a heat exchanger for nuclear power plant.

Through the technology upgrade, the institute said the researchers will seek to develop the reverse design, which scans and manufactures the real objects of the abandoned parts, and the production of core components of ultra-small reactors for space. and innovative small modular reactors.

The research team developed a “parallel expansion” technology to eliminate the size constraint of PBF 3D printing by connecting laser sources and scanners side-by-side. Two laser sources and scanners were each installed to increase the available range to 1.0m in width.

For high accuracy, the research team established variable values ​​for the speed and pattern of the laser by combining experiments and simulation programs. As a result, the deformation caused by heat and stress can be predicted in advance to create a smooth connection area without defects.

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