Swedish 3D printing companies Additive Composite and Add North 3D have developed and released a new boron carbide composite filament suitable for radiation shielding applications. The material, available under the name Addbor N25, is made up boron carbide and a co-polyamide matrix.
Boron carbide is one of the hardest known materials and has consequently been used for many extreme applications, such as tank armor and bulletproof vests. The material is also well suited for radiation shielding because of its high neutron absorption, and has thus been adopted in the nuclear industry as well as other sectors that generate radiation.
The new filament developed by Uppsala-based Additive Composite and filament developer Add North 3D, leverages the anti-radiation properties of boron carbide but in a printable, filament format. The development of the material was also supported by research at Uppsala University.
The filament’s boron carbide content is capable of absorbing neutrons generated by nuclear or research facilities that use radiation sources. By combining the material with a printable polymer matrix, the Swedish companies are creating new opportunities for the types of products that can be created.
As Additive Composite says: “The ability to make complex shapes easily by means of 3D printing is important to provide effective shielding of stray radiation and to provide collimated beams.”
The Addbor N25 filament can be used as a safer alternative to other materials, like cadmium metal, which is now widely banned because of its high toxicity. The ability to 3D print a virtually unlimited range of parts from the radiation-shielding material could lead to a smaller reliance on cadmium.
“Additive manufacturing is changing how many products are being designed and produced,” said Adam Engberg, CEO of Additive Composite Uppsala AB. “We believe that Addbor N25 contributes to this development and helps both industry and large research facilities to replace toxic materials that could eventually contaminate the environment. Our new product is the first in a range of radiation shielding materials that we are currently developing.”
Additive Composite has reportedly already sold hundreds of parts 3D printed from the new boron carbide material to detector and sample environment groups at the European Spallation Source (ESS) in Lund, Sweden.