3D Printed Metal Filters Enhance Circuit Breaker Safety, Eliminating Explosion Risks

Photo by ZMorph All-in-One 3D Printers on Unsplash

Schneider Electric, a leading energy management and automation company, has introduced a groundbreaking high-voltage circuit breaker featuring 3D-printed metal filters for enhanced protection against overloads. These filters, designed to be integrated into circuit breakers, safeguard people and equipment in industrial environments, including power plants and chemical processing facilities.

When a circuit breaker is activated, it generates a strong magnetic field that, if not adequately controlled, can ignite sparks and potentially trigger explosions. The 3D-printed metal filters act as a barrier, preventing sparks from escaping and causing harm.

The filters serve multiple functions, including preventing particles from entering the system, reducing gas pressure, and controlling temperature. This is accomplished through a basket weave structure that divides the gas flow into parallel streams, combined with a sophisticated mesh with a high surface area.

Filters are strategically positioned before and after circuit breakers, which is critical in enhancing safety and reliability within industrial systems.

The metal filters are developed using a 3D printing technique called binder jetting. This process involves applying a fine layer of metal powder and selectively fusing the powder into the desired shape using a binder. The resulting filter possesses a porous structure with fine channels that allow air to pass through while effectively capturing sparks and debris.

One of the significant advantages of this approach lies in its ability to create intricate and precise geometries that would be challenging or impossible to achieve using traditional machining methods. This empowers designers to optimize filter performance while minimizing size and weight.

Additionally, the scalability of the 3D printing process enables the rapid and cost-effective production of thousands of identical filters.

Schneider Electric embarked on a journey to revolutionize its proprietary manufacturing method of soldering multiple components, leading them to explore 3D printing. While initially considering powder bed fusion, they ultimately discovered that metal shot blasting was better suited for their needs.

Collaborating with GKN, they have successfully commercialized this innovation and are poised to commence production in 2021, with plans to manufacture up to 10,000 parts annually. With this advanced technology, companies can significantly enhance the safety and reliability of critical systems, all while reducing costs and improving overall efficiency.

Bianca Van der Watt

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