Commodification of Scintillator Detectors using 3D Printing Techniques

One-hundred-and-fifteen years after the first device was developed by Sir William Crookes, scintillator technologies remain an integral part of particle detectors in fundamental particle, nuclear, medical and applied physics applications worldwide. Primarily, these are research systems and are bespoke, one off detectors designed for high-performance and permanent installation within controlled and routinely monitored environments. Commercial systems used in a range of applications have different requirements and need to be reliable, stable and cost-effective. The proposed 3DSCINT project will use game-changing 3D printing techniques, pioneered at the Welsh Centre for Printing & Coating (WCPC) at Swansea University, to develop state-of-the-art scintillator holding structures for commercial applications as well as fundamental physics and medical research.

While there has been initial research into the 3D-printing of scintillator material itself, this technology is inefficient and a long way from rivalling established scintillator products. The 3D printing of holding structures for existing scintillator materials (e.g. fibres) is therefore a critical technological advancement that will reduce the cost of production of scintillator-based particle detectors. Applying this state-of-the-art additive manufacturing technique to scintillator detectors will deliver many additional benefits including the acceleration of construction and the improved quality assurance from the ease of replication of systems. This 3D printing breakthrough is an important step towards the mass production and the commodification of particle detectors.

The initial commercial application for this innovative detector manufacturing technique is within the non-destructive testing field of cosmic-ray muography. This passive imaging method uses natural background radiation to inspect the contents of complex, shielded structures that cannot be investigated using conventional methods such as X-rays. Project partners Lynkeos Technology is a UK SME and the leading company in Europe specialising in this fast-growing imaging field. In the field of muography, the capability developed from this 3DSCINT project has huge potential as a central component of Lynkeos Technology’s mobile muography system, which will be the first commercial system capable of the passive monitoring and integrity inspection of large-scale civil infrastructure such as bridges and dams for some of the world’s leading engineering organisations. Lynkeos will be the beachhead customer of these custom 3D-printed scintillator structures.

The commercial vehicle for this novel 3D-printed detector technology will be a joint venture company established between the WCPC at Swansea University and Lynkeos Technology as part of this Ufunded 3DSCINT project. This new company will generate employment in Wales and will design, develop and manufacture bespoke holding structures for scintillator-based detector systems.