Russian companies in the energy, aerospace, defence and shipping industries are developing 3D printing facilities and metal powders to accelerate the integration of the supply chain in 2021.
Metal powders — typically alloys of aluminium, titanium, steel and copper, as well as nickel and cobalt in powder form — are increasingly being used in complex industrial applications to customise intricate components, reduce the weight of parts and streamline the production process.
The development of metal powders available on the global 3D printing market accelerated in 2020 and processes are needed for their integration into production and supply chains in Russia, said Mikhail Turundaev, general director of Rusatom Additive Technologies (RusAT). For example, German additive manufacturing company EOS has about 100 3D printing systems operating in Russia and plans to add more in future.
RusAT — a subsidiary of TVEL Fuel Company, which is part of Russian state-owned nuclear firm Rosatom — has opened its first Centre for Additive Technologies (Cat) at the site of the Moscow Polymetal Plant. The plant has installed 3D printers for producing metal powders, post-processing equipment and a product research lab to develop additive manufacturing technologies and demonstrate the possibilities of using additive technologies in industrial enterprises.
The centre plans to have a full additive manufacturing production cycle in place by the end of 2021 to cover the needs of RusAT’s customers, Turundaev said. A second stage of development will add advanced equipment to the facility using selective laser sintering and stereolithography technologies, and will expand the range of testing and auxiliary equipment. The company expects the centre’s revenue after the second stage to reach 300mn roubles ($4.05mn) by 2030.
Formed in 2018, RusAT integrates Rosatom’s additive manufacturing operations in the nuclear industry focused on four areas: the production of a line of 3D printers and components; the development of metal powders and other materials for 3D printing; the creation of integrated software for additive systems; and the provision of services to support the use of 3D printing.
RusAT joined in the early-December formation of the Association for the Development of Additive Technologies, a Russian industry association that aims to consolidate the efforts of specialised companies and state-owned enterprises in developing 3D printing. Other founding members include defence systems producer Almaz-Antey, oil and gas firm Gazpromneft, the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Aviation Materials (VIAM), Tekhnomash — a subsidiary of Russian space organisation Roscosmos — and the Cat.
The association aims to accelerate the growth of the Russian additive technology market by 2.5 times, to reach 170bn roubles by 2030, investing more than 81bn roubles to implement measures in its development plans. The Cat is the first of a network of 10 additive technology centres that Rosatom will create by 2030, with the association planning a total of 180 centres, said Natalya Nikipelova, president of TVEL.
The next centre will open in Novouralsk at TVEL subsidiary Centrotech, which recently launched production of metal powders for 3D printing. As part of the development of additive technologies, RusAT has developed six new national industry standards that were approved in December, including the design and quality of metal products, production based on selective laser alloying of metal powders, and laser alloying from a metal-powder composition of Ti-6Al-4V titanium alloy. There were already 28 additive technology standards and the national standardisation programme for 2021 plans to add 11 more, bringing the total to 45.
Russian engine manufacturing company UEC-Saturn, which produces gas turbine engines for commercial aerospace, power generation and shipping, has developed additive materials for use in marine gas turbines.
The company is developing in-house metal powders to replace imported materials for each of its new engine designs. The company received certifications in 2019 and 2020 for metal powders based on cobalt, stainless steel and titanium alloy for aircraft gas turbine engines. The cobalt and stainless steel alloy are the first domestically produced additive materials that have also now been approved for marine applications.