The Virtual Foundry Launches Rapid 3DShield Tungsten Radiation Shielding Filament

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Metal 3D printing filament manufacturer The Virtual Foundry has launched a new tungsten-based radiation shielding filament, Rapid 3DShield Tungsten.

The material is the densest FFF filament the company has made to date and is capable of providing radiation shielding benefits without the need for debinding or sintering.

Containing 92-95% metal, the filament is suitable for medical, security, non-destructive testing and protection against X-ray fluorescence radiation.

The mission of the Virtual Foundry

The Virtual Foundry was created with the goal of making metal 3D printing accessible to everyone and was one of the first to bring FDM desktop metal printing to market with its proprietary Filamet filament. Combined with FDM, Filamet produces unique prints infused with metallic element flakes which, when subjected to a secondary processing technique involving an oven and the company’s “black magic powder”, produce pure metal parts.

Compatible with nearly all existing FDM/FFF 3D printers, Filamet can be used to fabricate metal prototypes and short-term scalable manufacturing systems using an open market approach. Virtual Foundry’s line of filaments includes stainless steel, copper, bronze, aluminum oxide, zirconium silicate, high carbon iron and tungsten, all of which can be sintered to high density .

The company has seen rapid growth in demand for its materials and technology in the automotive, aerospace, military and education sectors in recent years, having worked with companies such as the NASA, Mitsubishi and the US Department of Energy (DoE).

More recently, The Virtual Foundry worked with 3D printing service provider Sapphire3D and CNC machine manufacturer Levil Technology to provide a complete metal 3D printing lab. The system includes The Virtual Foundry’s 3D printing metal filaments, Levil’s EDU-Mill equipped with an industrial-grade dual-head 3D printer, and Sapphire3D’s oven.

The Virtual Foundry range of materials. Image via Virtual Foundry.

Fast 3DShield Tungsten

Rapid 3DShield was formed in 2019 as a joint venture between The Virtual Foundry and Vulcan Global Manufacturing Solutions with the goal of developing dense, non-toxic 3D printable materials with radiation shielding capabilities.

After several years of research, the company has now resulted in the creation of the company’s Rapid 3DShield Tungsten filament. Notably, the filament does not require debinding or sintering to realize its radiation shielding properties, and can be printed in much the same way as the company’s other Filamet materials.

The filament is approximately 92% tungsten and is the densest filament made by The Virtual Foundry. In fact, the firm reckons it’s the densest FFF filament currently on the market at 7.51 g/cc.

In addition to its suitability in medical, security, non-destructive testing, and X-ray fluorescence, Rapid 3DShield Tungsten can also be deployed for other high-density engineering applications, such as counterbalancing and anti- vibration.

Available in 1.75mm or 2.85mm diameters, the filament can be 3D printed on a traditional FDM 3D printer using a hardened steel nozzle. Due to its exceptionally high density, the only color available is dark grey.

Rapid 3DShield tungsten filament.  Image via Virtual Foundry.
Rapid 3DShield tungsten filament. Image via Virtual Foundry.

3D printing with tungsten

An unnatural inorganic compound, tungsten carbide is made from Wolfram, a rare metal found naturally on Earth, and carbon. The basic form of the material is a fine gray powder that can be pressed and shaped by sintering for use in industrial equipment.

Although versatile, the material is prone to fractures and breakage when exposed to laser-based metal 3D printing processes. To address this issue, the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and General Carbide, a Pennsylvania-based compound metal manufacturer, received a $57,529 grant to study various tungsten carbide powders that can be used in a binder jet 3D printer.

In a similar vein, binder jet 3D printer vendor ExOne previously partnered with Global Tungsten & Powders Corp to advance the use of tungsten powders in metal binder jet 3D printing.

The material has already been used to 3D print discs in a gamma camera for higher resolution medical imaging by the Institute of Cancer Research in London, while scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have identified the causes of crack formation in 3D printed tungsten.

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Featured image shows Rapid 3DShield tungsten filament. Image via Virtual Foundry.

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