The process sees objects printed in boron carbide (B4C) and then infiltrated with aluminium. The resulting material boasts strong, lightweight and energy-absorbing properties which are said to enable researchers to capture data at atomic level during neutron scattering processes. Thus, ExOne has sought to license the method to for commercial purposes, allowing users to additively manufacture shielding equipment and other neutron scattering instrumentation.
A team of ORNL researchers, headed by Group Leader of Instrument Engineering David C. Anderson and including both Amy Elliot and Bianca Haberl, developed the ceramic-metal printing method on the ExOne M-Flex platform.
The agreement between the two parties to license the process builds on an existing relationship and will see an expansion of opportunities for users of ExOne’s binder jetting technology. Manufacturers of neutron scattering collimators will no longer face limitations in the shapes they can produce and will be at less risk of radiation thanks to the material’s energy-deflection capabilities, while other users might benefit from the potential to print metal parts in a lighter material than bronze.
“It delivers results that X-rays can’t,” said Dan Brunermer, Technical Fellow, at ExOne, of the ORNL’s ceramic-metal printing method. “Neutrons can detect light elements like hydrogen or water, but they also penetrate through heavy elements like lead, which enables analysis of complex processes in-situ. This research and the resulting license agreements demonstrate the value that the DOE manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL delivers to the manufacturing and science community at large.”