When it comes to the 3D printing industry, Russia is not necessarily considered a leader in the space. However, after a kickstart from the supply chain issues generated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased awareness of the importance of developing additive technologies, one of the nation’s leading technology companies has started to accelerate additive manufacturing (AM) in Russia.
The first major step was the launch of the Additive Technologies Center (ATC) in Moscow in December 2020. To learn more about the ATC and the company behind it, we spoke to Mikhail Turundaev, CEO of Rusatom Additive Technologies (RusAT), and the head of the company’s ATC, Andrey Beryukhov.
RusAT is a subsidiary of the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom (ROSATOM), the largest electricity company in the country and one of the world’s leading nuclear power businesses. With 36 nuclear power plant units being developed across 12 countries, it has one of the largest portfolios of nuclear power plants overseas. It also has the greatest market share in uranium enrichment, making for one-third of the world’s uranium enrichment activities.
Turundaev pointed out, however, that ROSATOM is in the process of diversifying its businesses, which includes wind power, batteries, oil and gas services, composite materials and more with an aim that proceeds from new businesses will represent 30 percent of total proceeds by 2030. Among those areas of interest for the Russian nuclear giant is AM.
Because the pandemic impacted global supply chains, there have been growing efforts to establish AM capacities around the world. That way, in the face of another disruption, whether they come from viruses or climate catastrophes, manufacturers can continue to produce parts, with AM serving as a fast and flexible way of doing so.
Russia is no different, Turundaev said: “The pandemic closed borders. We can’t meet. We can’t fly. We can’t walk and see each other—only via Zoom, Skype and so on. It is important that we maintain open boarders when we restart operations, but when we do, we need to ensure that we have Russian technologies and Russian equipment, and we can support and service that technology at any moment. This why it’s important to have our local competencies.”
As it compares to the rest of the world in terms of 3D printing, Beryukhov said:
“Today we cannot call Russia a leader in the 3D printing industry, but we definitely see the growing potential of our country in this area. For now, the Russian market share is only 2 percent, the country is in 11th place in the world in the production and implementation of additive technologies; however, the 3D printing market in Russia has grown 10 times over the past eight years; the total sales of equipment, materials and services in the field of additive manufacturing – including R&D – grew to ₽ 4.5 billion a year. The purchase of equipment, additional equipment and materials accounts for about 80 percent of the market volume. In general, at present, domestic equipment occupies about 42 percent of the Russian market of additive technologies, foreign equipment – about 60 percent. Thus, in this area, import dependence has decreased from 96 percent to 60 percent.”
Like other countries, AM is seeing the widest adoption in the aerospace and automotive sectors, according to Beryukhov, with a particular focus on metal powders. The goal is to see the technology increasingly capable of industrial production, with such innovations as reducing the size of the equipment while increasing throughput, including labor and energy reduction. Given Russia’s rich deposits of raw materials, ROSATOM has access to a great deal of metals from which to develop its own powders.
The ATC has been built on the site of the Moscow Polymetal Plant and has ties to State Policy of the Russian Federation on the development of the high-tech area “Technology of new materials and substances”. The company covers all sectors of 3D printing, from systems and powder production equipment to software and future ATCs.
The next ATC will be geared toward technology for serial production of autocatalysts for ROSATOM’s hydrogen energy program. Future ATCs will spread throughout the country, including Novosibirsk, Perm, Tomsk, Kazan, St. Petersburg, Khanty-Mansiysk and Rostov-on-Don. The Moscow ATC will act as a service bureau, manufacturing products of varying complexity and volumes with a full suite of additive product manufacturing by the end of the year. Other capabilities will include design and optimization of parts, as well as assembly, commissioning, testing and upgrades of AM equipment.
Beryukhov described RusAT this way, “Since RusAT is a complex integrator, our approach to achieving the purposes is also complex. We not only physically create products according to customers’ CAD models (our Additive Technologies Center was opened for this purpose), but also develop, optimize CAD models themselves, conduct tests (we have our own Quality Control Department) and develop standards.”
RusAT is beginning with laser powder bed fusion (L-PBF), with three different such machines varying in terms of build envelope and other parameters. All feature the ability to use one to four lasers. The RusMelt 600 Multi Laser has a build volume of 600 х 600 х 500 mm, making RusAT one of the few manufacturers with an L-PBF system so large. The machine includes fully-automated processes for cleaning and sieving, and handles a wide variety of materials, including nickel-based alloys.
The RusMelt 300 Multi Laser is meant to be a cost-competitive, more traditionally sized system with a build volume of 300 x 300 x 300 mm. RusAT is aiming to implement domestically manufactured laser systems and produce its own scanners, which will go a long way to ensuring the servicing and manufacturing of the machines locally.
The company already has some customers, big and small, including a Russian space startup called Roscosmos and some medical clients. It’s worth noting that ROSATOM is both a consumer and developer of additive products and, therefore, represents a potentially immense player in the market for additive parts domestically and abroad. In February 2020, ROSATOM launched a large-scale program to see AM integrated into enterprises across the nuclear industry, resulting in 10 pilot projects currently in progress.
This includes an anti-debris filter for a fuel assembly that protects the equipment inside of a nuclear reactor. Another project is a massive baffle ring found inside of a nuclear reactor, typically four meters tall and weighing 35 tons. When milled from a 75-ton billet, there is an extraordinary amount of scrap left over. For this reason, RusAT is aiming to develop a directed energy deposition printer that will 3D print a 35-ton blank for the baffle ring, thus increasing production efficiency by 50 percent.
The next technology the company plans on releasing is wire arc AM (WAAM), which will be followed by selective laser sintering and stereolithography in the second stage of the ATC facility’s development. Other processes are also in the pipeline, such as electron beam melting, ceramic 3D printing, composites and more. RusAT believes it may have a WAAM machine developed by the end of the year.
In other words, RusAT is quickly becoming an important player in the 3D printing space. If it can continue its momentum, we may see it grow beyond the bounds of Russia and move into the rest of the world like its parent company.
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