Mar 28, 2018 | By Benedict

Scientists from the Institute of Nuclear Energy Safety Technology and Chinese Academy of Sciences have built and tested a 3D printed wall of a test blanket module, a component of a fusion reactor, using CLAM steel.

Selective laser melting (SLM), a kind of powder bed metal additive manufacturing process, has applications far and wide, from automotive and aerospace to the medical industry. Of all its uses, however, perhaps one of its most high-stakes applications is in the fabrication of fusion reactors.

In China, researchers have just taken a big step toward harnessing the power of SLM 3D printing for the creation of fusion reactors.

The group of scientists, from the Institute of Nuclear Energy Safety Technology (INEST) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, have used the metal additive manufacturing process to create the first wall of a test blanket module, one of the key components for a fusion reactor.

The researchers say the 3D printed reactor component, which is made from China Low Activation Martensitic (CLAM) steel, a Chinese neutron irradiation-resistant steel mainly used for fusion reactors and advanced fission reactors, meets all design requirements.

INEST has been researching CLAM steel for several years, and has published several research papers on the material.

In its latest study, the organization found that, while there are technical problems to overcome in creating complex 3D printed components for fusion reactors, 3D printing technology does allow the integrated formation of complex structures, resulting in short manufacturing cycles and high utilization ratio of materials.

It’s therefore good news for those in the business of 3D printing parts for fusion reactors, and for researchers hoping to attempt similar feats.

The researchers found that “the impact absorbed energy (IAE) of all impact specimens was significantly lower than that of the wrought CLAM steel, and the IAE of the samples vertical to the build direction was higher than that of the samples parallel to the build direction.”

In other words, the 3D printed CLAM steel outperformed wrought steel in the relevant respects.

CLAM steel is being considered as the primary structural material for the Chinese helium-cooled ceramic breeder (HCCB) of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which will be the world's largest magnetic confinement plasma physics experiment. Initial plasma experiments on the ITER are scheduled to begin in 2025.

The new research, “Microstructure anisotropy and its effect on mechanical properties of reduced activation ferritic/martensitic steel fabricated by selective laser melting,” has been published in the Journal of Nuclear Materials.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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