A feasibility plate where Fabrisonic 3D printed layers of 6061 aluminum and a .008 in. thick foil of tantalum. This proves that tantalum can easily be integrated into 3D printed aluminum structures such as satellite structural components. Thus the structure and the radiation shield can be combined into one monolithic panel.Click image to enlarge

A manufacturer using ultrasonic additive manufacturing (UAM) has found a new use for Tantalum for raditioan shielding in aerospace applications.

Fabrisonic LLC provides 3D metal printing services for equipment and contract services utilizing a patented ultrasonic additive manufacturing process, which uses the power of sound to merge layers of metal foil. Customers can take advantage of this technology to manufacture complex components with unique features and attributes that have never before been possible through traditional manufacturing techniques.

Image shows combinations of copper, aluminum, and titanium for another multi-metal laminate, illustrating UAM's ability to customize multi-material componentsClick image to enlarge

Historically, Fabrisonic has used tantalum for cladding. Tantalum has a very high resistance to corrosion and thus can be used to coat components that will operate in a corrosive environment.

It turns out that tantalum has many other properties. Several customers have asked if Fabrisonic can incorporate tantalum into aluminum aerospace structures for radiation shielding. Graded Z shielding has been used in satellites for years. It involves laminating several different metals together that each have a different atomic number. The variation in Z number creates an effective filter along a broad spectrum of radiation. Graded Z shielding can protect sensitive electronic components and reduce background noise for signal analysis. Generally a graded Z approach will also be lighter and thinner than traditional shielding. Satellites have used combinations of aluminum, titanium and tantalum to create a graded z structure.

The unique aspect that Fabrisonic brings to graded z components is the fact that UAM can easily weld dissimilar metals. Thus, Fabrisonic can 3D print structural panels with several different z number materials in a single component. This limits part count and eliminates complex brazing operations.

In addition to graded z applications, tantalum is a good absorber of neutrons and we have also found several terrestrial applications for neutron shielding. Fabrisonic is currently working with embedding tantalum for neutron shielding applications for nuclear medicine.

Why Use 3D Printing for radiation shielding

Fabrisonic’s UAM technology changes the way people think about making parts. By using a solid state 3D printing process that uses sound waves to merge layers of metal foil, true metallurgical bonds with full density are produced while working with numerous metals including tantalum, europium, titanium and aluminum.

Metal 3D printing technologies have the promise of creating parts with complex layered structures not possible with conventional manufacturing approaches. With Fabrisonic’s metal 3D printing technology industrial customers can:

  • 3D Print parts using multiple different metals layered in the same part
  • 3D Print complex shapes with CNC precision
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