It doesn’t always take a giant to reach for the stars. Romar Engineering is a small Sydney-based manufacturer that has quietly built a robust reputation for quality and expertise over the last 50 years, and continues to enhance its capabilities – most recently diversifying into metal additive manufacturing.

Based in Sefton, New South Wales, Romar Engineering is well known across the industry for medical device manufacturing, yet it also has remarkably diverse proficiency across silicone, micro moulding, precision moulding, clean room manufacturing, elastomers and several other areas of industrial manufacturing, including precision inspection, five-axis machining, metal additive manufacturing and design for manufacture.

Romar’s success lies at the intersection of manufacturing expertise and cautious innovation. It has continually looked at ways to strengthen and expand its capability, while remaining committed to core objectives of high-quality, commercially viable, scalable manufacturing solutions.

In recent years Romar has invested in technology and additional expertise to build an entirely new arm, in the field of advanced additive manufacturing.

“Currently, around 65% of our business is with the manufacture of medical devices,” says Alan Lipman, CEO of Romar Engineering. “In recent years we’ve built up deep knowledge and capability in advanced manufacturing for industrial sectors. This means we are firmly positioned to offer innovative manufacturing solutions for sectors including aerospace, mining and defence, and we are looking to expand in those sectors over the next few years.”

Facilitating growth in advanced manufacturing sectors

At the heart of Romar’s advanced manufacturing capability is a state-of-the-art 3D printer with significant and singular capability – the DMG Mori Lasertec 65 3D 5-axis synchronous laser deposition, welding and milling machine. It’s the only machine of its kind in Australia – and indeed one of only three operating in commercial settings globally – so it brings something very special to the local market.

With the Lasertec 65, Romar can develop, prototype, test and manufacture superior-quality components and can repair, renew and replace existing components. The potential across the defence, rail and aerospace sectors is immense.

Casting technology is one of the oldest manufacturing processes, and is used extensively in aerospace and defence. The cost of maintaining investment casting tools is a significant portion of total lifecycle budgets, and it can be avoided through intelligent process selection. The Lasertec 65 is enabling high value aerospace and defence customers to eliminate these costs by substituting a digital model with flexible manufacturing instead.

With the Lasertec 65, Romar’s additive manufacturing potential includes metal-on and metal-off hybrid manufacturing of highly complex components. It can engineer scalable new designs and develop one-off prototypes, quickly, cost-effectively and with precision accuracy. Additional features of the Lasertec 65 include the ability to combine different metals (including hard and soft metals), a large build size up to 600mm in diameter, quick-build capability (up to 10 faster than traditional powder bed-based systems), and the option to manufacture parts that require no modification or treatment, for immediate use. For Romar’s customers, it means increased flexibility and fast-response production solutions.

Collaborating with Jet Engines Australia

Romar’s capability to produce fast-build, large-size, one-off and scalable production has potential across multiple advanced manufacturing sectors.

“Our 3D printer affords us the capability to create monolithic, multi-material metal structures that can be finish-machined and inspected all in a single set-up,” says Steve Milanoski, Romar’s Head of Advanced Manufacturing, and a former additive manufacturing specialist with SpaceX. “This increase in machine accuracy correlates strongly to component performance, allowing clients to push designs harder for longer.”

One of the first Australian aerospace companies to collaborate with Romar is Jet Engines Australia, a local manufacturer currently developing high-tech jet engines for multiple applications. Romar is working with Jet Engines Australia to manufacture engines for military and commercial autonomous operations.

“We are working with Jet Engines Australia to create a turbojet engine around a metre long,” says Lipman. “This will be the first Australian designed and manufactured engine in some time, if not ever. Engine manufacture will fully leverage Romar’s additive and advanced manufacturing capabilities and focus on resilient supply chain sourcing models.”

Beating powderbed additive at its own game

Conformal cooling, in the parlance of additive manufacturing, typically belongs solely to the powderbed additive methods … until now. Romar has recently been redesigning existing mould cores that utilise conformal cooling to achieve greater cooling efficiencies.

“Where directed-energy deposition (DED)-based additive manufacturing is disadvantaged through complex geometries, we make up through the combining of multiple materials to optimise performance,” says Milanoski.

Romar Engineering is using advanced mould-flow simulation to optimise the channel size and shape, while also adding highly conductive copper to the core for greater thermal efficiency. Utilising hybrid manufacturing to modify existing parts allows for faster turnaround times – as opposed to powderbed processing cycles that can often last months –  which is an Australian advanced manufacturing capability unique to Romar.

The work has the potential to reduce moulding cycle times further. Decreasing cycle times results in higher energy efficiency, which results in not only a cost benefit but an environmental one as well.

While Romar is building credentials in the additive and advanced manufacturing arenas, it has not altered its scope for first-class medical manufacturing and the provision of medical-grade silicone. It remains a leader in the manufacture of medical devices with facilities including a world-class clean room.

Romar’s cutting-edge facilities and technology are drawcards, but at the core of the company’s breadth of capability is an exceptional, multi-disciplined team of leading biomedical engineers, advanced manufacturing engineers and materials scientists.

“Nothing replaces engineering experience,” says Lipman. It’s why Romar has built a formidable reputation for manufacturing excellence and why its future projects are set to soar.