Dec 7, 2016 | By Benedict

Less than a month ago, the China Nuclear Power Research Institute and Nanfang Additive Manufacturing Technology 3D printed a pressure vessel cylinder for an ACP100 nuclear reactor. That critical 3D printed part has now passed a technical appraisal from experts.

While 3D printing is becoming commonplace in industry, architecture, construction, and other sectors, the association between additive manufacturing and nuclear power has generally been regarded as distant—at best. However, exciting developments in China could see that relationship becoming a great deal closer. After the China Nuclear Power Research Institute and Nanfang Additive Manufacturing Technology 3D printed a pressure vessel cylinder for a nuclear reactor in November, the two organizations moved quickly to gain industry approval of the 3D printed part. Now, a diverse group of nuclear power experts has given the green light to the 3D printed pressure vessel cylinder, suggesting that additive manufacturing could soon have a big role to play in developing nuclear power equipment.

The experts passing judgment on the 3D printed nuclear reactor component came from 13 research institutes, including the China Nuclear Power Institute, the National Nuclear Engineering Company, the Harbin University of Technology, and the Beijing Steel Research Institute. China Nuclear Power Research Institute called the development of the reactor part and its subsequent approval a major breakthrough, one that could signal a revolution in manufacturing that could massively shorten the production cycle for nuclear reactor components. All parties involved believe it now possible to intelligently manufacture large metal components for nuclear power stations, including reactor pressure containers.

The project to create a 3D printed pressure vessel cylinder for a nuclear reactor began in October 2015, and involved the use of Nanfang-AM's large metal 3D printer capable of printing objects with a diameter of 5.6 meters and height of 9 meters. China Nuclear Power Research Institute is currently the only large-scale comprehensive scientific research base for nuclear reactor engineering, research, design, testing, and small batch production. By 3D printing the reactor components, million-ton heavy-duty forging equipment is not needed. Furthermore, pressure vessels, which in the past have been welded, now can be printed in one print job with a higher performance than forged parts.

The China Nuclear Power Research Institute and Nanfang Additive Manufacturing Technology announced earlier this year that, using 3D printing technology, they had been able to fabricate certain CAP1400 fuel components. This achievement marked the first time that 3D printing technology had been used in the manufacture of nuclear fuel elements. The parties commented at the time that if additive manufacturing could be used in small-scale production, it could save manpower, improve the quality of nuclear fuel elements, and replace imported components with domestically produced ones.

With metal 3D printing technology seemingly on its way to making its mark in the Chinese nuclear power sector, one of the evaluators urged the industry to ensure that the gradual move to additive technologies be a smooth one. On this subject, nuclear power expert Liao Qi commented: “Only in combination with the transformation and upgrading of traditional manufacturing industry can [3D printing in the nuclear power sector] develop fully.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Pieter wrote at 12/8/2016 4:24:14 AM:

What relationship does the steel ring pictured have with the story? Do you have a picture of the pressure vessel that the story reports on?

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