Businesses of all sizes and sectors can access the most contemporary additive manufacturing (AM) equipment and knowledge at ProtoSpace, a dedicated facility at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) driving digital transformation in Australian manufacturing.

ProtoSpace is unique in offering access to both high-end equipment and technical advice and expertise beyond the reach of many manufacturing businesses. It encourages direct, hands-on experimentation, and offers training and consultation alongside access to AM capabilities supported by operational and engineering teams.

“We want to collaborate with industry partners by providing access to cutting-edge expertise in 3D printing technology, software, engineering and design,” says Hervé Harvard, Director of both ProtoSpace and UTS’ Rapido facility. “We have assembled a highly advanced suite of printers, with eight individual AM machines on-site, and provide guidance on how AM technologies will best fit a business. And we can bring together multi-skilled teams from across UTS drawing on specific discipline areas including artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and automation to work closely with businesses to develop their best solution.”

As AM has matured from design/prototyping and tooling, a new era in bespoke 3D printing promises great potential for further innovation, says Hervé. Mining services company Mineral Technologies (part of the Downer group) and UTS have been working together for almost two years, examining the use of composite polymer for equipment manufacture, and exploring 3D printing technology to create economic benefits and competitive edge. A 2m-high mineral-separating spiral is being printed at ProtoSpace, and the partnership is developing a bespoke 3D printer for on-site equipment parts at Mineral Technologies’ remote locations in Australia and overseas.

Alex de Andrade, General Manager – Metallurgy, Equipment and Technology at Mineral Technologies, says: “It is often very difficult to build new advanced capabilities from the ground up in a very short window of competitiveness, and we look to expedite this process through external collaborations with universities and cooperative research centres (CRCs).”

He says the collaboration delivers technical diversity and skills that would otherwise take decades to build internally: “Our AM spiral technology enables us to connect all of our metallurgical test results (big data), print a bespoke shape without capital-intense tooling, and drive multiple iterations of a new spiral shape or profile on a digital twin before deploying the production cells to the project/construction site.”

Harvard says UTS is not promoting any particular machine or technology: “We’re advising on AM and providing equipment for industry to use. We want businesses to walk in to ProtoSpace and explore how to leverage it.”