ML System uses Zortrax 3D printing to prototype solar energy products

Polish solar cell manufacturer ML System has used Zortrax’s 3D printing technology to advance research and development of an innovative new line of environmentally friendly energy products.

By using the M300 Plus 3D printer from Zortrax, ML System was able to develop its environmentally friendly “HQ Glass” insulation products, which serve as an alternative to conventional heating systems for private households, faster than prototypes. By switching from outsourced to in-house models, the company has also been able to cut related expenses by up to 90% while drastically reducing lead times for its end products.

“When designing a freestanding heater based on HQ Glass technology, 3D printing was required to design an enclosure that was both functional and beautiful,” said Paweł Kwaśnicki, deputy director of research and technology transfer at ML System. “With the Zortrax M300 Plus 3D printer, we were able to print all the necessary parts in-house without having to outsource anything to external subcontractors.”

ML System’s HQ glass is designed to eliminate the need for traditional heating systems. Photo via Zortrax.

The intelligent glass from Iterating ML System

ML System, based in the Polish city of Zaczernie, specializes in the development and production of BIPV (Building Integrated Photovoltaic) cell systems that generate electricity directly from sunlight. The company markets its proprietary technology in various forms, from stand-alone solar modules to sustainably operated skylights and heated glass frames.

One of the company’s newest products, HQ Glass, is essentially a “smart glass” that runs on photovoltaic modules and acts as a building’s primary heating system. For the design and prototype of the HQ glass, ML System had previously commissioned an external 3D printing provider, who delivered serviceable parts with lead times of up to two weeks.

In contrast, by switching to Zortrax 3D printing, the company was able to quickly redo the design of new smart window frames and a freestanding solar heater and produce several prototypes in a matter of hours. The use of a durable ABS during research and development has also produced models that are functionally equivalent to end-use products, allowing ML System to test their performance more effectively than before.

As an added benefit, the introduction of 3D printing has helped streamline the company’s workflow and generate significant cost savings. After successfully prototyping the new glass-based HQ heater with the Zortrax M300, ML System is now in the process of certifying it for end-use consumption ahead of its upcoming launch.

“With rapid prototyping technologies in the industry, engineers can quickly manufacture complex components and test the properties of various materials if necessary,” said Michał Siemaszko, head of research and development at Zortrax. “With the option of using several different filaments, we can carry out various tests in-house, which have a very positive effect on the quality of the end product.”

Zortrax 'prototype HQ glass heater prototype.Zortrax ‘prototype of a freestanding HQ glass heater prototype. Photo via Zortrax.

Rosswag’s reactor cooling parts

In a similar energy-related development, the metal powder qualification company Rosswag Engineering has produced 3D-printed plasma-illuminated cooling heads for the Wendelstein 7-X fusion reactor. The experimental stellarator, based at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, is used to assess the viability of future power plant parts and has recently demonstrated the ability to operate continuously for 30 minutes.

Inside the reactor, Rosswag’s water-cooled heads are used to thermally monitor the deflectors of its plasma containers and to protect the mirrors installed in them. Due to the plasma exposure of the printed components, they have to meet high requirements in terms of exposure to magnets, heat, radiation and corrosion.

In order to ensure that the parts have the required durability to adhere to these tolerances, Rosswag has used its holistic process chain to carry out the entire steps of 3D printing, CNC machining and material analysis internally and to ensure all relevant qualifications have been documented.

The 3D-printed plasma-coated cooling heads from Rosswag Engineering. One of Rosswag’s 3D printed plasma-exposed cooling heads. Photo via Rosswag Engineering.

3D printing nuclear reactors

With the help of additive manufacturing, components with improved stability properties can now be created that enable end-use use in extreme nuclear applications. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), scientists are currently developing a 3D-printed microreactor called the Transformational Challenge Reactor (TCR).

The ORNL team is not only building a functional core, but would also like to demonstrate the feasibility of additive manufacturing for direct application in the entire nuclear industry. As part of the project, Purdue University also won a $ 800,000 contract to develop an AI-based model that will ensure the reactor contains only core-quality parts.

Elsewhere, scientists from the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) have 3D printed a large-format safety valve. The whopping 30kg faucet meets the Class 1 safety level found in commercial replacement parts, meaning it can withstand potentially the heaviest levels of radiation in the nuclear industry.

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The picture shown shows a Zortrax M300 Plus 3D printer and a prototype of a green energy part. Photo via Zortrax.

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