Additive manufacturing is being used for 3D printing the safe encapsulation for radioactive particles
Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), a developer of Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) systems for the production of safe, commercially competitive, clean and reliable nuclear energy, has adopted two 3D printers from Desktop Metal from the recently updated X-Series line of binder jetting systems, with two additional machines to follow this year.
Desktop Metal’s recently rebranded X-Series line of binder jet 3D printing systems for metal and ceramic powders, which includes the InnoventX, X25Pro and X160Pro. can 3D print advanced materials such as silicon carbide (SiC), a technical ceramic with extreme environmental stability often used in aerospace, armour, plasma shielding and high-temperature applications.
USNC transforms high purity, crystalline, nuclear-grade SiC into the shapes and forms that can safely surround a nuclear fuel particle, enabling USNC’s Fully Ceramic Micro-encapsulated (FCM) fuel innovation to be produced safely. The technology, which is detailed in a case study also released recently, is a key component of USNC’s innovative fuel design for use in a new generation of advanced reactors.
According to Dr Kurt Terrani, executive vice president of USNC’s Core Division and an internationally recognised technology leader in nuclear fuels who has previously led multiple research and development efforts at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, binder jetting is a low-cost, high-yield, reliable process for the complex serial production process of the encapsulated fuel particles.
“The advanced material capability of the X-Series machines is fundamental to our innovative approach to fuel design.” He says.
Volume production capability
The X-Series line of 3D printers was designed to take the technology away from low volume laboratory, research & development and prototyping applications and move it towards larger scale applications such as mass production, enabled by its repeatable open parameters and performance across a range of machines. With the small-format InnoventX already installed at the company’s facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, USNC has developed its next-generation nuclear fuel matrix to be scaled up on the larger X25Pro and X160Pro systems.
According to Ric Fulop, Co-founder and CEO of Desktop Metal, driving mass adoption of additive manufacturing requires scalable systems capable of printing high-performance materials that enable the most innovative applications.
“We’re proud to support the mission of USNC with flexible binder jetting technology that takes customers all the way to production and helps play a role in solving global-scale problems with additive manufacturing solutions,” he concludes.
The X-Series binder jet 3D printer for metals and ceramics
The X-Series family of scalable printers — the InnoventX, X25Pro and X160Pro — offers a differentiated approach to binder jetting enabled by patented Triple ACT, an advanced compaction technology for dispensing, spreading and compacting powders during the binder jet printing process.
This flexible, open materials architecture is capable of binding together a wide range of powders and allows X-Series printers to process metals, ceramics and more with high density and repeatability for functional, precision parts and tooling in a wide range of build areas.
Important for 3D printing silicon carbide, the whole process is carried out at low temperatures. This enables USNC to create complex and bespoke shapes in a material that is difficult or impossible to manufacture with traditional technologies or laser-based 3D printing methods.
It enables the complexity and flexibility required for forming the correct encapsulation for the USNC products while providing for their long lasting integrity.