RMIT: Lobsters inspire stronger concrete

New research from RMIT University shows that patterns inspired by lobster shells can make 3D printed concrete stronger, to support more complex and creative architectural structures.

Digital manufacturing technologies like 3D concrete printing (3DCP) have immense potential to save time, effort and material in construction. They also promise to push the boundaries of architectural innovation, yet technical challenges remain in making 3D-printed concrete strong enough for use in more free-form structures.

In a new experimental study, researchers at RMIT looked to the natural strength of lobster shells to design special 3D printing patterns. Their bio-mimicking spiral patterns improved the overall durability of the 3D printed concrete, as well as enabling the strength to be precisely directed for structural support where needed. When the team combined the twisting patterns with a specialised concrete mix enhanced with steel fibres, the resulting material was stronger than traditionally-made concrete.

Lead researcher Dr Jonathan Tran, a senior lecturer in structured materials and design at RMIT, said 3D printing and additive manufacturing opened up opportunities in construction for boosting both efficiency and creativity.

“3D concrete printing technology has real potential to revolutionise the construction industry, and our aim is to bring that transformation closer,” says Tran. “Our study explores how different printing patterns affect the structural integrity of 3D printed concrete, and for the first time reveals the benefits of a bio-inspired approach in 3DCP. We know that natural materials like lobster exoskeletons have evolved into high-performance structures, so by mimicking their key advantages we can follow where nature has already innovated.”

The automation of concrete construction is set to transform how we build, with construction emerging as the next frontier in the automation and data-driven revolution known as Industry 4.0. A 3D concrete printer builds houses or makes structural components by depositing the material layer-by-layer, unlike the traditional approach of casting concrete in a mould.

The research team in RMIT’s School of Engineering focuses on 3D printing concrete, exploring ways to enhance the finished product through different combinations of printing pattern design, material choices, modelling, design optimisation and reinforcement options. The most conventional pattern used in 3D printing is unidirectional, where layers are laid down on top of each other in parallel lines. The new study investigated the effect of different printing patterns on the strength of steel fibre-enhanced concrete.

Previous research by the RMIT team found that including 1%-2% steel fibres in the concrete mix reduces defects and porosity, increasing strength. The fibres also help the concrete harden early without deformation, enabling higher structures to be built.

The team tested the impact of printing the concrete in helicoidal patterns (inspired by the internal structure of lobster shells), cross-ply and quasi-isotropic patterns (similar to those used for laminated composite structures and layer-by-layer deposited composites) and standard unidirectional patterns. The results showed strength improvement from each of the patterns, compared with unidirectional printing, but Tran said the spiral patterns hold the most promise for supporting complex 3D printed concrete structures.

“As lobster shells are naturally strong and naturally curved, we know this could help us deliver stronger concrete shapes like arches and flowing or twisted structures,” he explains. “This work is in early stages so we need further research to test how the concrete performs on a wider range of parameters, but our initial experimental results show we are on the right track.”

Further studies will be supported through a new large-scale mobile concrete 3D printer recently acquired by RMIT – making it the first research institution in the southern hemisphere to commission a machine of this kind. The 5m x 5m robotic printer will be used by the team to research the 3D printing of houses, buildings and large structural components. The team will also use the machine to explore the potential for 3D printing with concrete made with recycled waste materials such as soft plastic aggregate.

New tech improves sustainable concrete

RMIT researchers have developed a new technology to manufacture concrete made from recycled materials that is stronger and more durable than the traditional product. Recycled concrete aggregates made with everything from coffee cups to building rubble offer huge environmental benefits, from reducing landfill and carbon dioxide emissions, to saving natural resources and boosting the circular economy. Despite ongoing improvements, however, challenges with matching the strength and durability of traditional concrete have hindered the practical application of these sustainable alternatives.

Now researchers from RMIT have developed a new method for casting prefabricated concrete products made with rubber tyres and construction and demolition waste that are up to 35% stronger than traditional concrete. Professor Yufei Wu from the School of Engineering led the development of the Rubberised Concrete Processing Technology (RCP-Tech) and said it offered an efficient and inexpensive solution.

“This technology can be used to significantly improve the strength, hardness and durability of any type of concrete material, such as rubber concrete, recycled aggregate concrete, and even ordinary concrete,” says Wu.

The method involves combining a mix of course and fine aggregates with rubber tyre waste, cement and water, which is then compressed to its minimum volume using pressure in a customised mould.

“By enhancing the properties of the recycled waste without the use of any additional materials, we have developed a feasible and practical solution that addresses the performance issues affiliated with waste recycling in concrete,” Wu adds.

Rubber from waste tyres is the cause of significant health, environmental and landfill problems worldwide owing to its chemical, flammable and non-decomposable nature. From 2015-16 Australia generated around 450,000 tonnes of waste rubber, 63% of which was sent to stockpiles or landfills and Victoria alone produces the equivalent volume of the Eureka Tower every four years.

PhD researcher and RCP-Tech co-creator Syed Kazmi says the team was now looking to partner with the precast concrete industry to manufacture and test prototypes of products like blocks and roadside barriers, wall panels, beams and slabs.

“The technology can be easily applied in the precast concrete industry and requires very little change to existing manufacturing processes with the addition of just one extra step in the final stage of production,” says Kazmi.

Kazmi and fellow PhD researcher Muhammad Munir presented the technology at the City of Melbourne Open Innovation Competition 2020 where they were finalists. They were also awarded the RMIT LaunchHUB prize for their work.

Cobra Golf partners with HP on first-of-its-kind 3D-printed golf putter

Cobra Golf, a leader in golf club innovation, recently unveiled the King Supersport-35 putter, the first of a series of revolutionary products featuring 3D printing technology. Developed over a period of two years in a collaboration between Cobra and engineering teams at HP and Parmatech, the club features a fully 3D-printed metal body with an intricate lattice structure.

Reinvention plays a crucial part in innovation, and Cobra’s 3D-printed Supersport-35 Putter represents a revolutionary advancement in the way that golf clubs are designed and manufactured. Cobra selected HP as its partner to pioneer 3D printing in golf due to the advantages that its Metal Jet Technology presented over traditional manufacturing and other 3D printing methods.

Cobra and HP began working together in early 2019 and, by early 2020, the team had created 35 different design iterations over the course of eight months, showcasing the design freedom and speed of product innovation available by utilising HP Metal Jet. With its quicker processing time, and greater design adaptability, the engineers were able to design, prototype, and test multiple iterations and bring the product to market much faster than traditional manufacturing methods.

The resulting club offers optimised weight distribution and delivers the highest possible moment of inertia (MOI) in a blade shape. In golf, MOI is a measurement of a club’s resistance to twisting. A golf club with a higher MOI will be more forgiving of off-centre strikes than a lower-MOI club as a result of its resistance to twisting.

“At Cobra Golf we strive to deliver high-performance products that help golfers of all levels play their best and enjoy the game,” said Jose Miraflor, Vice-President, Marketing at Cobra Golf. “To do that, it’s critical to use the most effective manufacturing processes to design, develop, and achieve optimal results, and we’ve certainly done that with this new putter.

“To continue innovating and transforming the way equipment is manufactured, we worked with HP and Parmatech to take advantage of the benefits of Metal Jet technology. During the development of the King Supersport-35 Putter, we saw immediate benefits from this process, including design freedom, rapid design iteration, and high-quality parts that meet our economic demands. 3D printing is accelerating design innovation, and this breakthrough putter will help usher in a new era for the sporting equipment industry at large.”

“The power of personalisation enabled by 3D printing delivers completely reimagined consumer products and experiences,” said Uday Yadati, Global Head of HP Metal Jet, HP Inc. “This first-of-its-kind putter is a shining example of the disruptive design and production capabilities of HP Metal Jet 3D printing technology. Cobra’s commitment to innovation and competitive excellence, combined with the technical expertise and leadership from Parmatech, has led to a breakthrough design win for golf fans around the world.”

In addition to the 3D-printed design, the King Supersport-35 putter features a face insert designed in partnership with SIK Golf. With an oversized blade shape, it utilises SIK’s patented Descending Loft Technology (DLT) to create the most consistent and accurate roll on every putt. Re-engineered into an aluminium face insert, this design strategically saves weight from the front of the putter to be repositioned heel-toe and tunes the feel to a slightly softer feel than a traditional all-steel SIK putter face. SIK’s signature face design utilises four descending lofts (4°, 3°, 2°, 1°) to ensure the most consistent launch conditions for every putting stroke. The exciting partnership, born out of work with SIK Golf partner and Cobra ambassador Bryson DeChambeau, yields flatsticks that not only provide superior stability and consistency due to 3D printing technology but also significantly improved consistency and roll performance.

“I’ve had a lot of success over the years with my SIK putter and was really excited to work with Cobra to develop a new way to manufacture equipment and bring this new putter to market,” said DeChambeau. “HP’s Metal Jet technology is an incredibly advanced production method and very exacting, which is pretty critical in golf equipment. I think golfers of all levels will benefit from the combination of Cobra’s high-MOI design and SIK’s Descending Loft technology.”

Superior quality, new possiblities

HP Metal Jet 3D printing delivers superior part quality and requires minimal post-process finishing. The entire putter body is printed using 316 stainless steel, and then sintered at a high temperature to bind the metal and form the final head part.

Due to the advanced capabilities of Metal Jet printing, engineers were able to print an intricate lattice structure within the body – a manufacturing feat that wouldn’t be possible using traditional casting or forging methods. The lattice fine-tunes the feel of the club and optimises the distribution of weight within the putter head to create the highest MOI without the need for additional fixed weights.

During the final step of the manufacturing process, the surfaces of the putter are precision milled using a CNC machine to ensure precise shaping and detail, while adding the finishing touches to the cosmetic appearance of the club. The Supersport features a high MOI heel-toe weighted design for maximum stability, and a plumber neck hosel with a 35-degree toe hang suitable for slight arc putting strokes.

The final product is a celebration of a major revolution in golf club manufacturing in the form of a high-performance putter that will appeal to golf purists seeking a clean look and feel but is packed with advanced technology to improve the quality of a golfer’s short game.

In the wake of the Supersport-35 launch, Cobra and HP are now working together on a strategic, multi-year product roadmap that leverages the design and manufacturing benefits of HP’s additive technologies to deliver further golf equipment designed to enhance performance and golfer satisfaction. The Supersport-35 marks the first foray into what promises to be a significant element in Cobra golf clubs in the future. Cobra has plans to launch two additional products in 2021 that feature 3D printed technology.

“HP’s 3D printing technology allows us to utilise a complex lattice structure to remove weight from the center of the putterhead and push significant amounts of weight to the perimeter,” said Miraflor. “The result is superior MOI levels and massively increased stability and forgiveness. So not only is the 3D production method more consistent but it also allows us to design products in a new and superior way.”

Aerospace and defence push boundaries of metal 3D printing

RAM3D, a 3D metal printing service provider based in in Tauranga, New Zealand, works with a large range of clients in the aerospace and defence sectors. Gilly Hawker of RAM3D reports on some of its most interesting projects.

Both aerospace and defence have been early adopters of additive manufacturing, mainly because complex geometries can be achieved that would be difficult to create using traditional manufacturing. Organic shapes, non-uniform sections and hollow areas become possible – leading to a part optimised for function and cost using metal 3D printing.

RAM3D’s services include metal 3D printing in stainless steel 15-5ph and 316L, titanium 64, Inconel 718 and aluminium (AISi10Mg), as well as consultation on design for additive manufacturing. Last year, RAM3D printed more than 3,500 parts for spacecraft, while closer to earth it has been working with companies like Oceania Defence and Aeromotors.

Oceania Defence – A partnership going from strength to strength

It’s no secret that RAM3D has been working in collaboration with Oceania Defence, a world leader in firearms suppressors since 2012. Oceania Defence relocated its business to RAM3D’s bespoke factory in Tauranga in July 2019, and the business relationship continues to move from strength to strength, with more exciting projects being designed and metal 3D printed for an array of military and police tactical groups throughout the world.

Bert Wilson, Managing Director of Oceania Defence, an engineer and long-time shooter, was inspired to design a titanium suppressor once he learnt about the capabilities of the metal 3D printing. Suppressors reduce the noise created when a bullet leaves the barrel of a firearm and allows the shooter to fire the gun multiple times without the need for ear protection.

The partnership has allowed both companies to fine-tune suppressor designs to create a range of suppressors in both titanium and Inconel that many defence forces want to use. Oceania Defence’s titanium suppressors are similar in weight to aluminium suppressors but can handle much higher temperatures, meaning multiple shots can be fired without disfiguring the suppressor due to excessive heat.

The suppressors are printed as one integral unit from Titanium 64 and Inconel 718 powders, thus reducing any need for spacers, thread assemblies or other support structures. This ensures the tightest manufacturing tolerances possible combined with the lightest, smallest, and efficient devices available to the market.

Aeromotors – Revolutionising drone design

Clever drone design takes innovative thinking and people who are willing to take bold steps along the way. Bill White, an aviation propulsion engineer and owner of Aeromotors, is revolutionising drone design for military operations. His journey started more 20 years ago when as a Christchurch engineer, he first started designing and building engines.

The smaller three-cylinder engine he has redesigned and built for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has a weight of 50kg and aircraft wingspan of 6m; it can fly to heights of 5,500m and has a cruise speed of 110 km/hour. In White’s own words: “This little engine is now a yardstick for the rest of the industry to catch up with.”

White’s aim is to design and build these engines to be proportionally lighter as all drone manufacturers want their drones to fly higher and further. With White’s extensive experience in developing, manufacturing, and testing engines, he convinced his clients to go with a four-stroke engine design, despite this engine type being considered ‘old technology’ in the small UAV world. Most drone engines are electric, while a two-stroke engine is inefficient, so White’s ingenious four-stroke engine is leading the way.

The parts RAM3D are 3D printing for him can’t be manufactured any other way; they are printed in Inconel 718 (a high-temperature alloy) and require high precision, especially where mass matters. With rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing this is finally achievable.

It was refreshing for the RAM3D team to see some great CAD designs specifically suited for its metal 3D printing process. They have printed production runs of manifolds, exhaust mufflers, collectors, and engine sumps.

From prototyping to production

Over the past five years, RAM3D has had to contend with a seismic shift from low-volume prototyping to high-scale production services. To this end the company now operates eight additive manufacturing systems to service many industries – including aerospace and defence.

RAM3D has seen an unprecedented increase in both large and smaller companies interested in trying 3D metal printing as an alternative to other forms of manufacturing. Since the COVIDi19 lockdown in New Zealand, it took on more projects – possibly because designers have had time to work on projects during lockdown.

RAM3D’s CEO Warwick Downing comments on what he thinks the future is for metal 3D printing: “Globally speaking, I think the metal 3D printing sector is at a bit of a tipping point right now, and it’s certainly only going to grow in importance and influence. It is no longer a ‘new technology’, it’s here and now.”

A 2021 roadmap for 3D printing the future

As 2020 has shown us, no one can predict the future – but you can pick a destination. In the world of manufacturing, that destination is the factory of the future, which will be fueled by growing technologies such as 3D printing. Yet, while the factory of the future is within sight, the way there is still being paved. By Richard Elving, Director at Markforged.

In realising the factory of the future, 3D printing will be a critical driver – but before we get there, the technology will need to be fully implemented, leveraged and optimised on a more widespread basis. Read on for a roadmap of where 3D printing is headed and how it will impact the industry in 2021.

Stop 1: 3D printing will help organisations take control of supply chains

As the manufacturing industry begins to recover from the pandemic and the landscape grows more competitive, it’s critical that organisations speed up their iteration cycles and provide new, innovative solutions quickly in 2021. To achieve this efficiency, organisations must use 3D printing to optimise processes, minimise downtime and circumvent circuitous supply chains.

In today’s global landscape, the longer the supply chain is, and the more players involved, the more risk an organisation faces when developing a new product – a process that often requires a distributed network of suppliers who produce the necessary parts for product development. When manufacturers are reliant on suppliers or partners in a crisis, it’s nearly impossible to be agile and as disruptions from the pandemic have shown us, even just weeks of supply chain delays can completely disrupt a business.

Organisations that have access to a 3D printer can look at existing machines, identify which widget they need to update – for example, a new robotic hand for a larger product – and design it in-house. Then they can print a prototype and test it themselves. This cuts out waiting for a supplier or supply chain partner, which would have added several iteration cycles. Instead, organisations can develop new solutions faster – reducing downtime from weeks to days – and be the first to market.

What’s more, by printing on site and reshoring their operations, organisations can test prototypes one at a time, rather than ordering several from a supplier or partner in bulk. As the organisation makes small adjustments to the part, such as the robotic hand’s grip, it only needs to throw away one hand rather than many; helping to reduce waste.

Stop 2: A 3D printing-first mindset will become the industry standard

As manufacturers continue to realise the value of 3D printing, adoption rates will increase and 3D printing will be further solidified as a staple, resulting in two trends. First, younger engineers will be exposed to additive manufacturing early on at school and, consequently, enter the workforce expecting 3D printing to be available at their companies. These digital natives will arrive with a 3D printing-first mindset – ushering in a new way of thinking, designing and manufacturing that will fuel explosive innovation. In turn, manufacturers will be expected to bring 3D printing as close to the point of use as possible, so 3D printing-first engineers can design on site – standardising the use of additive manufacturing.

Stop 3: An increased focus on certified 3D parts

Manufacturers know there is a high bar to clear to get parts certified. The more critical the part, the more stringent the safety and quality standards – which can become steeper depending on which industry you work in. Most manufacturers today rely on traditional methods of machining parts because they know it can meet those high standards. However, this dependence is holding manufacturers back from adopting more innovative solutions such as additive manufacturing, which – once certified – would benefit the bottom line in many more ways.

As 3D printing technology matures, however, traditional machining will no longer be the golden child of certification programs. 3D printed parts are already being used more prevalently and diversely, making them more likely to pass strict safety standards. Companies should not wait to prioritise certification for additive manufacturing – the first to prove their parts are safe will earn security in the end-use parts market.

Stop 4: One-off operations will make way for print farms and service bureaus

As more manufacturers prove the 3D printing use case within their organisation, the industry will begin to see more companies taking advantage of print farms and service bureaus. Bringing 3D printing in-house will revolutionise manufacturers’ processes and enable organisations to bring additive manufacturing to the point of use. As the realisation of this promise grows, however, manufacturers will have to keep pace with growing volume, and we’ll start to see manufacturers strategically outsourcing work to local service bureaus. Engineers can print and test a prototype on site, bring it to a print farm, and have it produced at scale, faster and at a fraction of the price.

Here, the vision of 3D printing farms will be actualised. While some exist today, companies are going to start taking advantage of this market opportunity with hundreds, even thousands, of 3D printers that they can use to quickly produce the parts they need most often. By the end of the decade, companies won’t have to outsource critical pieces of the manufacturing supply chain overseas. Instead, manufacturers will take matters into their own hands – until print farms grow into print factories.

As 3D printing accelerates, the factory of the future will become a closer, more fully realised destination. It will also become more essential as competitors race in the same direction. To get there first, or in time, manufacturers need to implement and leverage technologies such as additive manufacturing to optimise operations – cutting costs, lead times, downtime and waste.

ViscoTec – Printing a miniaturised soft robotic gripper

The areas of application for soft robotics are still in their infancy, but the potential is promisingly large. As part of an in-house test, the vipro-HEAD 3D print head from ViscoTec was able to print a very small, sophisticated pneumatic actuator – a so-called ‘Soft Gripper’.

Robots are such an integral part of industry these days it is hard to imagine production facilities without them. However, their use requires strict safety measures, especially when they come into contact with people. A new generation of robots drastically minimises the risk of injury and offers other advantages: these new robots are made of a flexible material, such as silicone. The movement of the robot is created by a specific filling and emptying of cavities (often using compressed air or vacuum).

An example of a soft robot already used in industry is the so-called pneumatic gripper. These actuators are characterised in particular by their high flexibility in gripping shapes and the non-destructive handling of fragile objects. However, the production of these flexible grippers is a challenge. The complex geometries and the many cavities make injection molding very complex or, in some cases, impossible. This can be remedied by using additive manufacturing and its immense design flexibility.

Thanks to the high degree of automation in 3D printing, a change in geometry can be achieved with little effort. This makes the process perfectly suited for researching and testing new gripper concepts. Recently a project of this kind was undertaken at the ViscoTec 3D technical centre.

An essential factor in successful printing is the extremely precise processing of the desired material, which is mainly silicone in the case of the Soft Gripper. The vipro-HEAD 3/3 or 5/5 is capable of creating particularly fine structures from silicone – with a layer thickness of 0.2mm. By actively retracting the material, no material drips into unwanted areas and a completely airtight component is achieved.

After initial tests it was found that, with the help of the vipro-HEAD 3/3 or 5/5, pneumatic actuators with very small dimensions can be produced: high-precision, additive-manufactured functional components made of silicone.

Particularly in the field of medical technology, the application possibilities of the miniature grippers are intensively tested. For example, in the area of minimally invasive medical procedures, the lower risk of injury from soft robots is a significant advantage over tools made of metal. For this reason, medical-grade silicone was also used for the tests at ViscoTec, to meet such requirements.

Boom Supersonic – Breaking barriers with 3D printing

US company Boom Supersonic is using additive manufacturing to challenge the possibilities of commercial flight.

Uncertainty is arguably what most business leaders fear most. But when you launch a new company aimed at building the first supersonic passenger jet since the Concorde, you need to embrace it, be agile and think big.

That’s the story behind Boom Supersonic, an aerospace company located near Denver, Colorado. Boom is a growing company with a big idea – to make supersonic air travel mainstream. Earlier attempts at commercial supersonic flight were unable to achieve sustainability, economically or environmentally. However, advancements in technology and the growing prevalence of global travel create a market opportunity for Overture, the company’s flagship airliner.

Overture will be the world’s fastest airliner and will cut long-distance flight time almost in half, making it possible for more people to go more places more often. To bring it to life, Boom has embraced 3D printing in nearly every facet of the aircraft’s development.

Big ideas come with big challenges

What Boom is trying to accomplish isn’t for the faint-hearted. The last time paying passengers flew supersonic, with Concorde, it was a government-driven, Cold War-era prestige project involving a consortium of large, established aerospace companies joining together, spending more than 10 years and an enormous amount of development resources, and taking on a considerable amount of risk to make it happen.

This time around, Boom, as a private company, is working within a business context, in order to ensure that the end product, Overture, can be profitable for its customers and the company itself. Fortunately, aircraft technology has advanced a lot in 50 years. Today’s aerodynamic design capability, material properties and engine performance have mostly overcome the issues that grounded the last supersonic aircraft.

Combined with the manufacturing benefits of 3D printing, Boom is well positioned to meet its goal.

Now, the company is ready to take its first major step toward its ultimate goal, with the first flight this year of its one-third scale demonstrator aircraft, the XB-1, following an unveiling event in October.

Fast and nimble

From the start, the Boom team knew 3D printing was going to play a crucial role in the development of XB-1, and ultimately for Overture. Mike Jagemann, Director of XB-1 production, had previous experience with 3D printing, and brought in two Stratasys 3D printers – an F370 and a Fortus 450mc – right away to help with prototyping. Boom later added a Stratasys F900 3D printer to expand beyond prototyping to include the additive manufacturing of tooling and production parts, and the company has since 3D printed hundreds of parts and prototypes.

One of 3D printing’s biggest benefits is time savings, and the company estimates it has saved hundreds of hours thanks to the technology. Boom uses 3D printed parts to check for proper fit and alignment, saving valuable engineering time.

“With 3D printing, we’ve been able to obtain parts very quickly and determine that they’re either going to work or that we need to make changes,” says Jagemann. “Rather than spend eight hours in CAD trying to check space constraints, the engineer can continue working on other things. When the part is printed, they can check the fit.”

Manufacturing these parts using traditional methods would be more expensive and too slow. Being able to print parts like hydraulic line clamps that will fly on the XB-1 is another critical time saver. The advantage is the ability to optimise the engineering workflow, leaving these components to the very end of the design process because they can quickly be printed in-house.

“That shortens the supply chain on certain components that are a good fit for 3D printing,” adds Jagemann.

The biggest savings so far, both in cost and time, have been the ability to make custom drill blocks to accurately locate the many fastener holes that pepper the XB-1’s airframe. Initially, Boom developed tooling that relies on metrology to position one hole at time. As the assembly progressed, however, it became clear that this approach was taking too much time.

Instead, the team pivoted and 3D printed more drill blocks, each incorporating multiple holes. That allowed them to use metrology to accurately position twenty or more holes instead of just one at a time.

“Being able to locate a drill block with a large volume of holes has been a huge manufacturing time saver for us,” says Jagemann.

One surprise with 3D printing Jagemann wasn’t expecting involved how it helps make Boom’s engineers more efficient, which in turn helps the team move faster.

“3D printing parts helps make the physical connection between what the engineer sees in CAD and how the part actually turns out,” he says. “If you don’t have a 3D printer to close that loop, you’ll use machined components instead, and that’s more expensive.”

The biggest barrier

Every business faces uncertainties from competition, economic instability and other factors out of its control. Boom is no different. However, Boom concentrates on what it can control, and relies on technology like 3D printing to blunt risk. Utilising 3D printing lets Boom break down manufacturing, supply chain and workflow barriers through innovation, cost constraint and speed of execution.

Based on the evidence so far, it’s a good bet the technology will continue to play a key role in helping Boom break the sound barrier too.

Sydney University, GE to boost Australia’s advanced manufacturing agenda

GE Additive and the University of Sydney have entered into a strategic five-year agreement to advance Australia’s manufacturing capability.

The agreement will establish capabilities in metal additive manufacturing technology at the Sydney Manufacturing Hub, a space for training specialists and academics working in additive manufacturing, and the incubation of small to medium manufacturing enterprises. Located at the University of Sydney’s Darlington campus, the Sydney Manufacturing Hub will enable advanced alloy design and applications to support a range of sectors including aerospace, defence, medicine and agriculture.

Following a memorandum of understanding signed in 2018 and GE Additive’s agreement with the New South Wales government to develop additive manufacturing capabilities in Western Sydney, the parties will work together on developing the broader advanced manufacturing agenda within NSW and Australia.

Advanced manufacturing accounts for half of Australia’s manufacturing output and is one of the fastest growing export sectors. The output of Australian manufacturing is estimated to reach $131bn by 2026, with advanced manufacturing potentially growing the domestic sector by approximately $30bn over the next five years.

Sam Maresh, country leader, GE Australia, said: “This is a breakthrough for Australia’s advanced manufacturing industry. Via the Sydney Manufacturing Hub, Australian manufacturers and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) will now have ready access to GE’s own production-grade additive technology.”

Chris Schuppe, General Manager – Engineering & Technology at GE Additive, said: “GE Additive is committed to delivering specialist consultation, global-standard training, and industry workshops to enable key additive manufacturing research projects at the University of Sydney. We’d encourage Australia’s advanced manufacturing industry to leverage this opportunity to experience additive manufacturing in a fully supported environment.”

University of Sydney Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Duncan Ivison remarked: “We are very excited to embark on a pioneering research program with GE Additive over the next five years. There is a huge amount of interest and excitement from both industry and the academic community, with whom we look forward to sharing our facilities and cutting-edge additive manufacturing technology. The agreement is a significant catalyst in enhancing the advanced manufacturing capability of both the University and the region, which could bolster Australia’s competitive edge.”

University of Sydney Director of Core Research Facilities and Faculty of Engineering academic, Professor Simon Ringer, said that the recent COVID-19 crisis had exposed the country to vulnerabilities due to dependence on complex, ‘just-in-time’ supply chains – something that can be improved with additive manufacturing.

“Pre-COVID-19, a national focus on manufacturing resilience was generally regarded as a nice thought,” said Ringer. “We have long believed this needs to be a critical national priority, and COVID-19 has raised the stakes. GE Additive and the University of Sydney, working alongside government and Australian SMEs, will be at the forefront of delivering this capability.”

“A manufacturing renaissance is coming and for Australia to lead in this space, there must be an investment in skills. Through the use of a smart facility, the University of Sydney is best placed to develop them and bring forward a new era of innovation. Our commitment to this area is backed by a recent report released by the NSW Office of Chief Scientist and Engineer, outlining the significant economic return our world-leading research infrastructure provides to the state and nation.”

Additive manufacturing uses data computer-aided-design (CAD) software or 3D object scanners to direct hardware to deposit material, layer upon layer, in precise geometric shapes, to create an object. The technology can be used to build advanced metallic structures such as alloys and aircraft engines. By contrast, when you create an object by traditional means, it is often necessary to remove material through milling, machining, carving, shaping or other means. Sectors set to benefit from the reinvigoration of manufacturing using additive technologies include aerospace and space, the defence industry, robotics platforms, medical devices, construction, agricultural-tech, oil and gas, and mining.

Neil Matthews of RUAG Australia appointed Member of the Order of Australia

Neil Matthews, Business Leader for Additive Technologies at RUAG Australia, has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day 2021 Honours List, recognising his service to aerospace component manufacture.

The Member of the Order of Australia is awarded to an individual who has contributed to service worthy of specific recognition. Over more than 25 years, Matthews has dedicated his career at RUAG Australia to researching and developing innovative aerospace component repair technology solutions.

“Today, we congratulate Neil on his outstanding achievement of being appointed a Member of the Order of Australia,” said Terry Miles, General Manager RUAG Australia. “Leading the way in component repair and coating technologies and making them accessible on behalf of our Defence Industry customers is a mission Neil and RUAG have followed consistently and continue to share. We are pleased to have Neil’s work recognised for the valuable contribution it creates for our customers.”

Matthews holds an aeronautical engineering degree and a Master of Science in Aircraft Design. He has been involved in Military Aircraft Engineering support for over 45 years, both as a serving air force officer and then in the commercial and military aviation industry.

Matthews has pioneered the use of additive manufacturing in the form of Additive Metal Technologies, including Supersonic Particle Deposition (SPD) since 2004. He has worked closely with the Australian Department of Defence, local and international research and academic institutions to have SPD technology adopted for a range of aerospace, aviation and commercial applications. The repair applications include corrosion and wear protection and restoration of damaged aircraft components, resulting in significant cost savings for customers. Matthews was awarded a Defence Industry Service Commendation in 2019 for his contribution to Defence.

Matthews has co-authored leading Journal Papers, been a keynote speaker regarding additive metal technology in Australia and internationally, and developed patented SPD technology for RUAG Australia. He is a member of the Defence Technology Transition working group, a member of the RMIT University Centre of Additive Manufacture Advisory Board, and is the principal Industry participant in a number of metal additive programs.

Peak Productivity: SLM Solutions launches 12-laser machine

SLM Solutions has launched its new selective laser melting machine, the NXG XII 600. The highly anticipated machine is equipped with 12 lasers with 1kW each and a square build envelope of 600mm x 600mm x 600mm.

The NXG XII 600 is the fastest machine on the market, 20 times faster compared to a single laser machine, and equipped with innovative technical features like the zoom function to maximise productivity and reliability. The machine is designed to be used in serial production for high-volume applications as well as for printing large parts, which opens up new applications in the automotive and aerospace industries and paves the way to industrialised serial production.

The NXG XII 600 is the latest addition to SLM Solutions’ product portfolio and puts productivity on a whole new level, with 12 1kW lasers operating simultaneously, as well as numerous technological innovations and automated features. A radically improved use of laser time in the build process enables unrivalled build-up rates. The new machine was designed from scratch for serial production and features a whole new optic system, the most compact on the market. It enables large overlap and is based on a tailor-made laser scanning system to best fit the build area.

All 12 optics provide spot size definition via a double-lens system called zoom function, enabling customers to choose between different spot sizes in the focal plane which boosts build-up rates to 1,000 cubic centimetres per hour and more. Producing a higher yield of parts in a single build job thereby enables mass production at low cost-per-part.

Sam O’Leary, Chief Executive Officer at SLM Solutions, is enthusiastic about the machine launch and underlines that a new era of manufacturing has started: “The NXG Xll 600 is a revolution in industrial manufacturing. Up until now, the limit had been considered to be that of a quad laser system – what we deliver here with 12kW of installed laser power is truly ground-breaking and a major step forward, not just for additive manufacturing, but for manufacturing in general. The potential cost reduction and productivity gains that this machine offers you means for the first time in the history of additive manufacturing, you can have true serial production fully integrated into your supply chain.”

To facilitate the integration of the NXG XII 600 into factories and supply chains, several automated features like an automatic build cylinder exchange, automatic build start as well as an external preheating station and external depowder station are part of the solution.

To achieve homogeneous part properties all over the building platform, SLM Solutions has developed a new gas-flow set-up along with an optimised chamber design and SLM Solutions’ patented and proven sinter-wall technology. Customers can also rely on the patented bi-directional recoating, which has been redesigned to be more compact and gas-flow optimised.

The NXG XII 600 features a robust machine design boasting a new thermal concept. This reduces drifts to a minimum and allows customers to print seamless parts stitched together with up to 12 lasers. Additionally, the machine comes with a brand-new UI concept focusing on the operator, which optimises the workflow and reduces training requirements. This once again underlines SLM Solutions’ focus on productivity, reliability, and safety.

The machine is available with two different powder handling options: a gravity-based and a vacuum-based solution, that both keep downtime between each build job to a minimum.

RAN installs award-winning metal 3D printing capability

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has installed a WarpSPEE3D metal printer at HMAS Coonawarra in Darwin.

A large-format SPEE3D metal 3D printer was installed by the Fleet Support Unit (FSU) at HMAS Coonawarra Navy Port in late November, making the RAN the latest branch of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) with the capability to print its own metal parts, on demand.

Sustainment, or the repair, maintenance and overhaul of equipment makes up a substantial proportion of the costs for all defence forces globally. The difficulty and expense of getting spare parts through regular supply chains has been exacerbated and highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The world has been looking to additive manufacturing (AM) to solve this problem; however, most AM technology has proven too delicate, too expensive, and far too slow to solve the problem. SPEE3D has proven to be the exception.

SPEE3D’s metal 3D printing technology was developed in Australia and is the world’s fastest and most economical metal 3D printing technology. It is also the only large format metal 3D printing technology that has been trailed and proven field-deployable by the ADF.

SPEE3D recently completed a series of successful field trials deploying the WarpSPEE3D printer to the remote outback with the Australian Army. The Federal Government funded the $1.5m trial, which included the training of Army craftsmen and engineers in 3D printing at Charles Darwin University in everything from design to certification of parts. The program resulted in a range of parts that the Army is now able to print and finish in the field, at a fraction of the cost and time of current supply chains. The pilot program with the RAN is expected to produce similar results.

The installation of a WarpSPEE3D at HMAS Coonawarra was made possible after the Federal Government made a $1.5m investment in a similar 18-month pilot of the capability for the RAN. This world-first trial is designed to streamline the maintenance of patrol vessels and significantly increase parts available to the Navy compared to those available from regular supply chains. This technology empowers the Navy to design and manufacture the parts they require, when and where they are needed, whether that be on base or at sea.

SPEE3D CEO Byron Kennedy said: “We are excited to be working with the Royal Australian Navy on this programme. Having the capability to produce high-quality metal parts on-demand, in the field or at sea will be ground-breaking for the Australian Defence Force.”

SPEE3D was recently awarded the AIDN-NT Innovation Award 2020 for an outstanding contribution in providing this capability to the Department of Defence, and the NT Exporter of The Year 2020 and Australian Trusted Trader Technology and Innovation Award 2020 in the NT Export and Industry Awards.