The Czech Republic’s ČEZ Energy Group and Škoda JS, a nuclear engineering firm acquired by ČEZ in 2022, have produced over 4,100 additively manufactured metal and plastic parts in the past year.
The move to additive manufacturing has enabled the companies to avoid delays caused by disrupted supply chains and boost energy independence. Supply chain disruptions from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine meant that the companies had to find a way to produce replacement parts without having to wait months for traditional manufacturing.
According to the companies, the deployment of parts from 3D printing contributed to reducing downtime and increasing power plant production, without affecting the safe supply of electricity.
Škoda JS has additive manufacturing machines for the production of large metal parts at its plant in Pilsen, with smaller AM machines at both Czech nuclear power plants. Although it has the capacity to produce metal parts weighing up to 600 kg, it has focused on additively manufacturing plastic and smaller metal parts so far.
“The choice of 3D printing technology depends on the material and requirements for the given part,” said František Krček, CEO of Škoda JS.
“A shaft is always better and cheaper to produce using machine tools. For parts with a very complex shape, such as a gear wheel for a gearbox, it is better to use 3D technology.”
ČEZ mainly uses AM for non-nuclear components in power plants, but it plans to expand the use of AM parts to nuclear applications. This move will strengthen the independence of the supply of spare parts and the planned operation of the nuclear units for at least sixty years.
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