The Centre for Additive Technologies (CAT) of Rusatom – Additive Technologies (RusAT) was opened at the site of the Moscow Polymetals Plant in December, as the first industrial production facility in the field of 3D printing using domestic technologies and equipment.
CAT is equipped with Rusmelt 300M, Rusmelt 600M and Rusmelt 600 RM 3D printers for printing with metal powders using laser melting metal powder (SLM) technology. These printers are designed and manufactured by Rosatom, run on Russian software and have parameters and characteristics that meet international standards.
The Central Design and Technological Institute (JSC “TSPI”, part of TVEL) acted as the contractor for the design of the CAT.
“The opening of the first Centre for Additive Technologies underlines the role of Rosatom in creating a new technological order in the country,” said Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev. “This is an extraordinary event not only in the industry, but also on a national scale. There is a lot of work ahead related to the creation of a whole network of such centres, primarily in cities and regions where Rosatom enterprises are present.”
Likhachev said that the next centre will open in Novouralsk at NPO Tsentrotech, another enterprise of TVEL Fuel Company.
“The development and application of these technologies is of great importance for the entire nuclear industry. We have solutions related to the use of additive technologies in production: from the creation of elements of certain products to large supplies of equipment,” he added.
Developing Russian technology
“It is fundamentally important that this is the first such centre in Russia, equipped with Russian equipment. All this technology was developed by our designers and engineers,” said TVEL President Natalya Nikipelova.
“The equipment for 3D printers was manufactured at NPO Centrotech, the machines themselves are assembled at the site of the Moscow Polymetal Plant. They run on Russian software.” NPO Centrotech launched the first unit for the production of powders for 3D printing.
“Rosatom took the path of creating a full line of equipment and services in the field of additive technologies, being at the same time a manufacturer, a customer, and a consumer,” she added. “As a result, it was possible to 3D print an anti-debris filter for the fuel assembly. It required fewer materials than traditional manufacturing, and it has a design that would be impossible to reproduce with other methods. By introducing additive technologies in our production, we are setting an example for other industries. Now we are essentially creating a new industry in Russia with our own centres, competencies, personnel and core universities.”
Expansion of 3d printing operations in Russia
Mikhail Turundaev, General Director of RusAT said Rosatom’s first center for additive technologies is “a pilot site where we will form the best technological proposals and business solutions for our clients”. After finishing the debugging of the printing modes, orders will be taken.
“By the end of 2021, we plan to launch a full production cycle for additive products. At the current stage of the development of the market for additive technologies, the equipment that has already been installed in the Centre and will be installed during 2021 will completely cover the needs of our customers. As for financial indicators, within the framework of the project’s 2nd stage, the planned revenue of CAT in 2030 will amount to more than RUB300 million ($4m).
The Centre will expand in the future. As part of the construction of the 2nd stage, it is planned to place 3D printing complexes with metal powders and photopolymers at CAT, using the technologies of layer-by-layer sintering using a laser beam (SLS) and layer-by-layer solidification of a liquid material under the action of a laser beam (SLA), as well as expanding the range of test and auxiliary equipment.”
The first Russian 2-powder 2-laser 3D-printer, created by Rosatom specialists, is being trialled at NPO Centrotech (part of TVEL) in Novouralsk, Sverdlovsk Region. This is the result of collaboration involving Centrotech, the Ural Electrochemical Combine (UECC) and CNIITMASH, as well as several other Rosatom enterprises and research institutes consolidated by RusAT. Compared with a 1-laser, printer, the performance of a 2-laser printer is increased by 60%.
The fundamental difference between this and other printers on the market is that it is polypowder. A unique powder regeneration system makes it possible during the printing process to separate two types of powder that differ in fractional composition, returning the regenerated powder back to the printing unit. This significantly reduces the consumption of powder and, as a result, the cost of products.
On 28 December, a laboratory facility for the production of titanium powders for 3D printing was put into operation at Centrotech, which has launched a laboratory centrifugal plasma spraying unit “Shaiba” for the production of titanium powders.
The advantage of this technology is the ability to obtain almost perfectly spherical metal powders with a low proportion of impurities. The target product is titanium alloy VT6 and VT1-0 powders for metal 3D printers and powder metallurgy in general.
An investment project to create a pilot laboratory facility for testing the technology for the production of titanium powders was launched in August 2019 for RusAT. The production of powder materials for 3D printing is one of the key areas of development and as part of the development of this direction, a Kaplya gas spraying unit for producing metal powders for 3D printing was put into operation at Centrotech.
In 2021, it is planned to launch a Centre for Additive Technologies at the enterprise, which will assemble 3D printers and manufacture powders for its own needs and third-party organisations, as well as provide 3D printing services for external customers.