Wed, 01 June, 2022
We are holding an in-person event at our headquarters near Cambridge on 14 June 2022 on the topic of ‘Manufacturing and Material Challenges in Fusion and Big Science.’
Among the speakers we will be welcoming to the event is Per Woxenius, product manager at Freemelt. Based in Sweden, Freemelt are innovators in the world of metal 3D printing.
Per will be speaking on the subject of, ‘Innovative Methods for 3D Printing of Tungsten’ at the event, so we took some time to find out more about Freemelt, Per’s presentation and the future of fusion technology.
Hi Per, can you start by letting us know more about Freemelt?
Freemelt is based in Sweden and was founded in 2017 by six people with a wealth of experience in 3D printing. We are growing rapidly and are now 30 people, twice as many as last summer.
Our main product is Freemelt ONE, an electron beam powder bed fusion system specially designed for materials development. We have recently introduced our first software product, PixelMelt that opens up for new melting strategies including spot melting.
We are currently developing an industrial 3D-printer, optimised for volume production and primarily focusing on titanium for orthopaedic implants and tungsten for various applications.
As product manager, what does your role at Freemelt entail?
Until recently, I was the CTO at Freemelt. In a start-up, you have a wide range of responsibilities. Our fast growth made it necessary to split my job into different roles. Hence, I became product manager. I think that a major problem with 3D printing is to stay focused. The general idea is that you can build any shape in any material. Although this is an exaggeration, it is easy to fall into the trap to embrace too much. In my role, it is therefore important to understand how our materials development system, Freemelt ONE, fits in research and academia. Even more important is to understand the requirements in the fields that we will address in our upcoming industrial systems, where we focus on titanium for orthopaedic implants as well as tungsten applications.
How are Freemelt getting involved in advancing fusion energy?
To be honest, our decision to focus on tungsten was partially technically driven. We have shown that Freemelt ONE is suitable for development of materials processes for refractory metals. We also know that tungsten can be found in various high-end applications, including fusion energy, which is arguably the most high-end of all. We can also clearly see when approaching possible markets and customers that there is a definite need for complex parts with excellent materials properties. I firmly believe that 3D printing can solve some of these needs.
Can you tell us a little about what we can expect from your presentation at the fusion and big science event?
I will focus on technology, primarily materials process development of tungsten and the software needed to find the best melting strategies, i.e., PixelMelt. I will also address open source and the need for more players in the field.
What are the particular challenges with 3D printing of tungsten in relation to the fusion industry?
I do not think that it comes down to technology. Research, and our own tests, has shown that crack free parts can be manufactured when they are built at elevated temperatures. Electron Beam powder bed fusion is already done at temperatures well above 1000˚C.
The main challenge will be to drive down cost since the sheer volume of parts are so high. Hundreds of tons of tungsten will be needed in every power plant. Productivity is something that we are currently addressing.
Do you think we are close to seeing the practical application of fusion for widespread energy generation?
I am not the right person to answer that question, but we will ensure that 3D printing of tungsten parts will be a viable and cost-effective path when fusion power is introduced.
We look forward to seeing you on 14 June, but before we go, is there anything you would like to add?
I am really looking forward to interesting discussions with everyone interested in making fusion power a success!