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Russia develops 3D printer prototype to print large metal items in outer space

May 15, 13:17 UTC+3 TOMSK

Such printers can be especially of interest for the space and rocket sector and the atomic industry, experts say

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© Maxim Grigoriev/TASS

TOMSK, May 15. /TASS/. Russian specialists have developed a prototype of the country’s first 3D printer to print large metal items, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Tomsk-based TETA research company Grigory Semyonov told TASS on Monday.

Such devices can eventually be used for printing items in hard-to-access localities on the Earth and at lunar stations, he said.

"This is a unique device for Russia," the TETA head said.

TETA is one of the companies engaged in this 3D printer development.

"Today, the dominant position in producing metal items is held by printers, which use laser as a source of energy and metal in the form of powder. Our device uses metal wire while power is supplied by an electron beam, which helps ensure high productivity that is measured by kilograms per hour while other methods can only ensure output measured by kilograms per day," he said.

As compared to its desk-based rivals, the device developed in Tomsk can produce items "of an unlimited complex shape" weighing up to 1 tonne and with dimensions of up to 3 cubic meters, its developers say.

"The technology allows using refractory materials [titanium, tantalum, wolfram]: the advantage of the electron beam method is that the process takes place in vacuum, which excludes oxidation. You can combine materials and create items with a specified controlled internal structure," Semyonov said.

According to him, such printers can be especially of interest for the space and rocket sector and the atomic industry.

"This is one of promising methods. If we fantasize, then in the conditions of development on the Moon, you only need to have a printer and a coil of wire to ‘grow up’ any items. Or imagine that a printer is located in a remote and forgotten village: you can send there a file to print a bicycle and a postman will ride it," the company head said.

Currently, 3D printers based on the electron beam additive technology are already used by major aircraft-building corporations and defense enterprises abroad, In Russia, this area is weakly developed so far and the Tomsk device is set to close this gap, Semyonov said.

The technology and the printer are being developed by Energiya Rocket and Space Corporation (part of Roscosmos federal space agency), TETA company, the Institute of Strength Physics and Material Science of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Tomsk Polytechnic University.

The device prototype will be shown at the young scientists’ forum U-NOVUS-2017 that will be held in Tomsk on May 17-19. TASS news agency is the forum’s information partner.

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