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KAERI Develops World’s First 3D Printing-Based Heat-Resistant Alloy Technology 

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KAERI Develops World’s First 3D Printing-Based Heat-Resistant Alloy Technology

- Revolutionary development in the manufacturing of Oxide Dispersion Strengthened (ODS) materials for high temperatures -
- Diverse applications in national defense, energy, and aerospace industries -

The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) became the first in the world to develop a novel technology for the production of key components of high-temperature applications, such as aircraft engines and gas turbines, based on 3D laser printing.

On March 5, KAERI announced its successful development of a new 3D laser printing-based technology for Oxide Dispersion Strengthened (ODS) alloys, offering improved performance and 20 fold increase in speed. Recognized for its originality, the technology has been patented not only in Korea, but also in the United States, Japan, and France.
 - ODS materials refer to alloys made by mixing heat-resistant metals with oxides that can withstand high temperatures. Widely used across industries from national defense to aerospace, ODS alloys help  achieve high-temperature stability and heat resistance in aircraft engines, nuclear reactor components, gas turbines, and missile nozzles.

Previously, ODS alloys were made by mixing metals and oxides in powder form and undergoing additional steps, resulting in a time-consuming and costly process. Since strengthening is performed in the initial stage, end users have faced many constraints in making their products as desired because the alloys were already highly strengthened.

KAERI’s technology improves upon the existing process by first creating the end product, and then applying oxide particles to the metal surface and using the laser source of a 3D printer to melt the metal while mixing in the oxide particles, thereby introducing a heat-resistant layer within the metal.
 - Through the uniform distribution of oxide particles in metal, the technology not only shortens the processing time and cost by 20 times, but also enables users to choose specific parts they wish to strengthen.

3D laser printing-based ODS technology was initiated to prevent  hydrogen explosions in nuclear reactors. During the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the high temperature within the reactor caused the nuclear fuel cladding to oxidize, producing large amounts of hydrogen and leading to hydrogen explosions.
 - Nuclear fuel cladding tubes produced using the 3D laser printing-based ODS technology do not exhibit deformation (less than 1/4 of existing tubes) even at high temperatures of up to 1,200℃, and suppress hydrogen production to prevent escalation into major accidents like the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. This allows additional time for a disaster response, and is equivalent to a five-fold increase in nuclear fuel stability during an accident.

KAERI plans to apply the technology to the development of accident-tolerant cladding tubes, and to expand its reach across industries.
 - The use of ODS alloys and heat-resistant metals is becoming more widespread with industrial development. The domestic market for nuclear fuel cladding tubes amounts to 50 billion won annually, while the international market is worth 1 trillion won per year. As such, the commercialization of KAERI’s technology will bring about significant benefits, including import replacement and increased exports.

Jaejoo Ha, the president of KAERI, said, “ODS alloys, which are being actively studied in the United States and Japan, will be extremely useful for national defense and aerospace industries. The utilization of ODS technology is expected to accelerate developments in related industries.”

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