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CSIRO welcomes first ‘multi-metal’ 3D printer to boost Aussie aerospace manufacturing

The CSIRO has officially commissioned a new multi-metal 3D printer in Melbourne as part of the iLAuNCH Trailblazer initiative, which is set to make lighter, faster, and more robust aerospace components.

The CSIRO has officially commissioned a new multi-metal 3D printer in Melbourne as part of the iLAuNCH Trailblazer initiative, which is set to make lighter, faster, and more robust aerospace components.

Located at CSIRO’s Lab22 facility, the new state-of-the-art Nikon SLM 280 will be able to print metals side by side in one continuous print, enabling the precision manufacture of more affordable aerospace components.

Dr Joni Sytsma, iLAuNCH Trailblazer chief technology officer, explained, “This capability is the first of its kind as a production machine in Australia, in fact, the southern hemisphere and iLAuNCH is pleased to open up new manufacturing possibilities for locally made products.”

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The cutting-edge technology is well suited to aerospace and space where high performance and lightweight materials are the fundamental drivers of the designs, giving engineers the design freedom to consolidate parts to reduce mass and cost, ultimately making strategic weight decisions where needed.

Sytsma added, “Australian companies manufacturing satellites and rockets now have a real advantage to optimise their designs and improve performance, all made with a reduced lead time right here in Melbourne. We anticipate that the additional capabilities of this technology can also bring forth novel super alloys that are capable of maintaining ultra-high strength at the ultra-high temperatures that hypersonic vehicles need to survive, with a view to hypersonic air travel in the future.”

The manufacturing costs associated with these complex geometries are very high when limited to conventional manufacturing processes, thus limiting the mass producibility of these components via traditional manufacturing processes.

For example, with rocket engines, typically liquid oxygen and fuel flow through the engine at an extremely high pressure, which are then injected into the combustion chamber. In particular, on the oxygen side, there needs to be significant protection of the metal surfaces against oxidative attacks of the metal.

Through the introduction of technology like this multi-metal printer, it will allow the oxidative resistant layer to be manufactured in one go with the structural metal, speeding up production times and ultimately reducing the cost of the resultant structure.

CSIRO’s senior research scientist, Dr Cherry Chen, added, “We welcome Australian researchers and industry to access this technology for ultra-high-performance applications at CSIRO’s Lab22 Innovation Centre, one of Australia’s leading centres for metallic additive manufacturing, located at CSIRO in Clayton, Victoria.

As low weight, high strength, and high heat exchanger efficiency is crucial in racing as well as aerospace and defence, this technology and its advanced manufacturing capability are going to enable the development of novel aerospace products that are of high value to the whole ecosystem.

“Other uses to consider include satellite structure and componentry, as well as developing novel radiation shielding with alloys that are in development in the various laboratories under the iLAuNCH Trailblazer,” Chen said.

For iLAuNCH Trailblazer projects, SLM 280 technology will make potential space missions more affordable and efficient by creating lighter, faster, and more robust space components. This multi-material 3D printer is the only one of its kind in Australia, offering users a real advantage in additive manufacturing design.

iLAuNCH is building sovereign capability and a research and development ecosystem, essential for technology manufacturers in Australia to send their subsystems to space that will lead to better outcomes here on Earth. The goal is to help Australian companies be able to compete on a global scale and capitalise on commercial opportunities.

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