ORNL Researchers 3D Print Defect-Free Tungsten Components

By on May 29th, 2024 in news, research

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3D printed tungsten [Source: ORNL / VoxelMatters]

Using internally developed EB-PBF technology for applications that can withstand extreme temperatures.

ORNL researchers used electron-beam-based powder bed fusion (EB-PBF) additive manufacturing technology to 3D print the first complex, defect-free tungsten parts with complex geometries. Research was performed at DOE’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) at ORNL.

The MDF, supported by DOE’s Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Office, is a nationwide consortium of collaborators working to innovate, inspire and catalyze the transformation of U.S. manufacturing.

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory defect-free complex tungsten parts can be used in extreme environments and this could have positive implications for clean-energy technologies such as fusion energy.

Tungsten has the highest melting point of any metal, making it ideal for fusion reactors where plasma temperatures exceed 180 million degrees Fahrenheit. In comparison, the sun’s center is about 27 million degrees Fahrenheit.

In its pure form, tungsten is brittle at room temperature and easily shatters. To counter this, ORNL researchers developed an electron-beam 3D printer to deposit tungsten, layer by layer, into precise three-dimensional shapes.

This technology uses a magnetically directed stream of particles in a high-vacuum enclosure to melt and bind metal powder into a solid-metal object. The vacuum environment reduces foreign material contamination and residual stress formation.

“Electron-beam additive manufacturing is promising for the processing of complex tungsten geometries,” said ORNL’s Michael Kirka. “This is an important step for expanding the use of temperature-resistant metals in energy resources that will support a sustainable, carbon-free future.”

Read the rest of this story at VoxelMatters

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!