First 3D printing of crucial component to bring accelerators closer to society

The first additive manufacturing process for a critical component of an accelerator allows for more affordable, versatile particle accelerators.

High-energy physics is not the only role of particle accelerators. They are also crucial in cancer therapy and material analyses and have the potential to create a new environment and other energy applications. Their size and high manufacturing costs are obstacles that prevent their widespread use beyond physics laboratories. The solution to make particle accelerators easier to access could come from additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing).

As part of the EU-funded I.FAST project, which aims to develop and enhance leadership in particle accelerators in Europe, the German high-tech company TRUMPF has for the first time additively manufactured a core component of future particle accelerators – a radiofrequency quadrupole (RFQ). The most complicated component of linear particle accelerators, RFQs, are crucial for providing the energy needed to propel the particle beam closer to the speed light. Formnext, the world’s leading 3D printing trade show in Frankfurt, will display the 3D-printed RFQ.

“Additive manufacturing can help reduce the size and cost of accelerators, shorten their construction time and enhance their performance. Used at a wider scale, additive manufacturing could make accelerators more affordable for use outside of large scientific laboratories, such as in hospitals for isotope production and cancer treatment, in airports for cargo screening or in laboratories for industrial analysis,” explains CERN’s Maurizio Vretenar, I.FAST project coordinator. “Over 30 000 accelerators are currently in use worldwide, the vast majority of them in healthcare and industry.”

The RFQ was designed by the I.FAST team from CERN, Politecnico di Milano and CNRS-IN2P3 to specifically target a TRUMPF 3D Printer that uses a highly energetic, green laser beam. The successful “printing” of such a critical component in one piece of metal only is a technological milestone in itself. “This is proof that large copper components can be manufactured additively with sufficient precision thanks to our green laser beam, which can print even the finest copper structures. High-precision parts like the RFQ can be manufactured faster, cheaper and more energy-efficiently,” says Michael Thielmann, additive manufacturing expert at TRUMPF.

I.FAST is exploring the range of advanced technologies that include additive manufacturing. “I have no doubt that the accelerator community will increasingly rely on additively manufactured components when designing and building new facilities,” concludes Toms Torims, researcher at Riga Technical University (RTU) and I.FAST Work Package coordinator for advanced accelerator technologies.

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