3D Printers

Russian nuclear agency builds industrial metal 3D printers!

Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation, Rosatom, has committed to additive manufacturing and the first Russian-made, industrial 3D metal printer will go on sale in 2018.

The agency has worked behind the scenes for more than two years and now and revealed the first Russian-made metal 3D printer at the Innoprom industrial trade fair earlier this month in Yekaterinburg.

It has a 1000-watt laser, a three-axis scanning system and produces metals at a rate of 15-70cm3/hour. It can also produce parts from titanium, copper, aluminium or iron powders.

That puts it roughly on a par with other industrial grade printers on the market and although the unspecified print area is large, it doesn’t look substantially bigger than the opposition.

The big difference is the price. Using Russian components and software means that Rosatom believes it can produce the printers for a retail price of approximately 30 million Rubles ($455,000).

Sales, not services, could be the end game

So the end game may well be to sell the printers to big business, but for now the nuclear agency will focus on producing parts and testing them in one of the most demanding industries in the world: its own.

The parts that the company will produce by 2018 will face a barrage of nuclear exposure in the form of neutron fluxes. While this will validate the parts for the nuclear industry around the world, it will also go a long way towards proving that Rosatom’s 3D printers can produce parts for any environment.

Aleksey Dub, the state corporation’s science and innovations division deputy director, said: “Over the last two and a half years, 3D printing has become one of the leading areas of Rosatom’s non-nuclear business. Today, a roadmap and a strategy of additive technology development in the nuclear industry has been formulated.

“By the end of 2018, Rosatom should have the full set of expertise needed to offer additive technology services. There are plans to have equipment, materials and technologies in order to offer the possibility of implementing any design ideas in the form of finished products.”


Another 3D printing nation has to be a bonus

Russia held its first 3D printing expo last year and the country entering the 3D printing industry at this level has to be good news for all of us. The nation is not the global force it once was and its economy has struggled in recent years. But if Rosatom can release a 3D printer that is fit for purpose at half the price of its competitors then it could prove a welcome addition to the industrial 3D printing world.

It’s worth bearing in mind, too, that this printer is not ready for market. With Russia’s nuclear industry and the government behind it, Rosatom could make great strides in the next two years and the final production model of this 3D printer could be much better than the one it unveiled this month.

Rosatom is building a 3D printer

Could this machine raise the bar?

If the agency can make it faster and the parts can withstand the nuclear assault, then this Russian-made 3D printer could raise the bar when it finally goes on sale. Of course the competition will be hard at work on speed, quality and price, too, and the 3D printing industry is moving at such a breakneck speed that two years is an absolute lifetime. The industry should generate more than $18 billion a year by 2020 and some think that is a conservative estimate.

So Rosatom is a welcome addition to the 3D printing world and we’ll keep a close eye on what Russian engineering can bring to the additive manufacturing table.