Hungary’s ATOMKI orders 3D printer for nuclear research

September 6, 2023, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Freemelt ONE 3D printer.

Hungary’s Institute for Nuclear Research (ATOMKI) is set to take delivery this year of a 4.6 million Swedish krona ($414,300) electron-beam 3D printer for nuclear material science research.

The printer—the Freemelt ONE model—is manufactured by Freemelt, a Swedish company.

Research plans: ATOMKI intends to use the printer for “research in surface science [and] surface topology, which means creation of new surface structures and composite materials via non-adiabatic [not occurring without heat loss or heat gain] alloying,” according to Kalman Vad, a senior research associate at ATOMKI. “The open architecture and free parametrization of the properties of the [electron] beam makes Freemelt ONE an ideal tool for research purposes.”

About the printer: The Freemelt ONE is a type of electron beam powder bed fusion (E-PBF) system. It is made with a vacuum chamber that has thick steel walls to prevent thermal distortion and is designed to produce new R&D materials for potential industrial applications. The two operating sides of the vacuum chamber separate the powder loading and handling activities from the operation and observing activities. The operator can visually monitor the production of components in real time through a periscope mechanism.

The machine’s electron beam source is a diode-type system with a laser-heated cathode. The fast-moving beam can be operated at very high currents while maintaining a focused beam spot, which is important at the high build rates and high temperatures associated with the type of nuclear research performed by ATOMKI.

A quick review: The website refers to the ATOMKI-Freemelt deal as “a milestone for 3D printing technology, particularly in the high-stakes field of nuclear material science.” The site notes that Freemelt systems are a good fit for researchers working on new materials with advanced 3D printing methods because of the beam gun and temperature capabilities. adds, “Freemelt ONE is specifically optimized for materials that can withstand the extreme conditions found in nuclear reactors. For instance, one of the core materials Freemelt focuses on is tungsten, known for its incredible heat resistance and suitability for radiation shielding. This makes Freemelt ONE a match made in heaven for applications in fusion and fission reactors.”

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