The patent-pending method was developed at ORNL using an ExOne M-Flex, with ExOne initially executing an R&D licence for the process in 2019. Now, with this new agreement, ExOne will be able to print aluminium-infiltrated B4C parts for commercial use.
Aluminium-infiltrated B4C is said to be suitable for neutron scattering research applications such as collimators, neutron imaging components and objects like shielding equipment used to deflect or absorb energy. The process of printing the material was developed by a team at ORNL led by David C. Anderson, the Manager of Instrument Systems Engineering for the Second Target Station Project. Via this method, parts are printed in B4C material before being infiltrated with aluminium.
The resulting parts are said to be strong, lightweight and neutron-absorbing, all considered useful in neutron scattering instruments which enable researchers to capture data down to atomic level. That the material is able to 3D printed with ExOne’s metal binder jetting technology means more complex shapes will be able to be addressed and thus new types of objects able to be manufactured. As part of the agreement, ExOne will engage in ongoing 3D printing production of a variety of B4C matrix components used in neutron scattering experiments at ORNL.
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