HIVE of activity tests 3D printing in fusion

HIVE of activity tests 3D printing in fusion | 04/08/2016

HIVE teamFrom a derelict air conditioning unit to a new facility for testing the limits of state-of-the-art manufacture – it’s AMAZE-ing what a year, some funding and hard work can do.

Over the last twelve months an abandoned corner of a workshop at Culham has undergone a transformation. Previously a dead space, it’s now home to the CCFE Technology Programme’s ‘Heat by Induction to Verify Extremes’ (HIVE); a unique facility that will apply high heat flux to test the latest manufacturing techniques for fusion and beyond.

HIVE was made possible by joint funding from the Technology Programme and from Culham’s participation in AMAZE – a pan-European research consortium bringing together numerous industrial users, research establishments and leading academic institutions to progress additive manufacturing (better known as 3D printing) towards challenging commercial applications.

Why the interest in additive manufacturing for fusion? Mike Porton, Project Leader for Culham’s work within AMAZE, explains:

“3D printing in metals via additive manufacturing offers exciting new possibilities for our engineers – it could allow us to realise previously impossible geometries, with novel material behaviour and minimised waste. Culham has taken a leading role in exploring the possibilities of this technology to address challenging fusion engineering problems, as exemplified both by its role within AMAZE and the various additive components already in use at the JET fusion research device.

JET 3D printed component“HIVE will be a crucial part of fully understanding what additive manufacture can offer to our work. With our collaborative partners, we are able to imagine and create wholly new design solutions for complex fusion reactor components such as the divertor and first wall. And thanks to this new facility, we’ll be able to verify key aspects of their performance under representative high heat flux conditions.”

The HIVE facility integrates commercial-off-the-shelf induction heating and process water cooling systems with a bespoke vacuum vessel and instrumentation. Its initial role is to provide surface loads of over 20MW/m2 to tungsten-armoured, additively manufactured samples for thousands of cycles to assess the effectiveness of novel structures to withstand fusion conditions.

Moreover, the team has made a facility that can be upgraded, as HIVE’s Operations Leader David Hancock highlights:

“Not only did factory acceptance tests demonstrate that this equipment can deliver even higher loads if needed, we’ve been careful to create a flexible facility to meet the needs of future users from CCFE and other organisations.

“By making HIVE fully upgradeable, not only can we foresee novel applications in materials testing, but also full-size component verification and the introduction of alternative coolants.”

What next for HIVE? Whilst there are numerous future possibilities for Culham and potential external users, the next steps for the HIVE team are clear – this summer will see the high heat flux testing of the first fully additively manufactured components, thanks to collaborations with partner universities including Sheffield, Erlangen, Cranfield and Birmingham. The initial focus will be on copper based samples before moving on to even more challenging structures.


1. Members of the HIVE team (clockwise from left: Rob Bamber, Keith Nicholls, Bruce Edwards, Mike Porton, David Hancock)

2. 3D printed component produced by CCFE for use at JET

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