AIKEN, S.C. – When EM’s Savannah River National Laboratory redesigned its patented aerosol contamination extractor (ACE), it chose to use additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, instead of conventional machining and delivered $1.2 million in savings.
The ACE is a portable air sampler that uses an electrostatic process to collect particles for analysis. The small size and portable nature of the ACE sampler makes it attractive for field use. However, due to the high cost of producing the original ACE design — more than $4,000 in machining for the critical flow assembly alone — the ACE was built and deployed only sparingly.
However, when a federal agency had a critical need for a large number of ACE samplers, SRNL used additive manufacturing to make the project possible within its budget. The lab redesigned the ACE, replacing the complex machined flow assembly with a two-piece, thermoplastic flow assembly for manufacture on one of the lab’s many 3D printing machines.
Using this approach, the new flow assembly part was reduced to a cost as low as $50. A test unit was made and met all performance goals, resulting in the delivery of 300 thermoplastic flow assemblies to meet the agency’s need.
Since SRNL began producing the ACE flow assemblies using the 3D printing process, ACE samplers have been used across the DOE complex, including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Hanford Site, and the Nevada National Security Site.