Tech & Science World's 'largest' 3D metal printer launches in Melbourne

04:10  17 may  2018
04:10  17 may  2018 Source:   theage.com.au

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The only thing bigger than Titomic’s new 3 D metal printer – allegedly the world ’ s largest – is the scale of this Melbourne -based startup’s ambitions. “If we look at the metals industry, I like to joke that it started 5000 years ago.

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Jeff Lang stands before his new 3D printer at the official unveiling on Wednesday.© Jason South Jeff Lang stands before his new 3D printer at the official unveiling on Wednesday. The only thing bigger than Titomic’s new 3D metal printer – allegedly the world’s largest – is the scale of this Melbourne-based startup’s ambitions.

“If we look at the metals industry, I like to joke that it started 5000 years ago. Nothing has really fundamentally changed in those 5000 years,” Titomic chief executive Jeff Lang said on Wednesday as the giant printer was unveiled at the company's Mount Waverley warehouse.

“We believe today you’re looking at ... where metal manufacturing can go in the future.”

The company's plans to print large titanium components – from golf clubs to ship hulls to titanium bike frames – have made it a sharemarket darling. It listed at 20¢ a share last September and shares traded at a high of $2.80 earlier this month.

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The only thing bigger than Titomic’s new 3 D metal printer – allegedly the world ’ s largest – is the scale of this Melbourne -based startup’s ambitions. World ' s largest 3 D printer launches in Melbourne 12hr.

World ' s largest 3 D metal printer launched in Melbourne . Titomic CEO Jeff Lang will unveil the world ' s largest metal 3 D printer in Melbourne on Wednesday.

But it is yet to earn a cent in revenue. And an expert says it has a long way to go to prove its technique works.

The company’s technology is similar to traditional metal 3D printing, where new objects are printed layer-by-layer using a spray of metallic particles.

Generally, printing metal means melting it down so that it fuses when sprayed. Titomic’s key difference is CSIRO-developed "kinetic fusion" – better known as blunt force.

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Australian metal additive manufacturing company Titomic today announces the launch of the world ’ s ' largest ' metal 3 D metal printer at its state of the art facility in Melbourne , Australia.

Titomic, the Australian industrial scale AM company, has launched what it claims is the world ' s largest metal 3 D printer with a demonstration in its native Melbourne . The company believe this printer is the world ’ s largest and fastest metal 3 D printer .

Titanium powder particles are accelerated to supersonic speeds – about a kilometre a second – before being sprayed by a robot onto a scaffold.

The particles slam together so hard they fuse solid.

If it works, kinetic fusion offers all sorts of benefits over normal 3D metal printing. It’s quick and efficient, and it can easily be scaled to print big parts. The huge printer, for example, is intended to be able to make things almost 10 metres long.

But Professor Milan Brandt, director of RMIT's Centre for Additive Manufacturing, offers a warning: despite similar technology having been around for 15 years, no one has proved it works.

“There are lots of challenges. If you’re talking about structural applications, there has to be significant work done to prove this technology is capable of delivering the same performance as conventionally machined product.”

Cold spray is widely used to recoat existing machine components, protecting them from corrosion. But building something wholly from scratch is largely untested.

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World ' s ' largest ' 3 D metal printer launches in Melbourne 10hr.

World ' s largest 3 D metal printer in Melbourne , Australia - Titomic to use Titanium and kinetic fusion. The US Airforce has launched research into 3 D printing replacement parts for old planes using the Figure 4 3 D Printing Platform designed by 3 D Systems.

The core problem: the physics of kinetic fusion is poorly understood. It’s not yet clear the metal particles are truly fusing together, said Professor Brandt. If they're not properly fused, the components being built might fail under stress.

“What happens between individual layers? Do you get good enough bonding – are the parts 100 percent dense? That will effect components subject to fatigue,'' Professor Brandt said.

“The physics of it are still not quite clear, to be honest."

Deakin University professor of additive manufacturing Ian Gibson said the key challenge would be finding commercial applications for the technology. Because kinetic fusion needs a scaffold to spray onto, unlike normal 3D printing, it can only print a limited range of objects.

“Metal 3D printing can solve many more tasks than this can. Knowing what this can be useful for goes a long way towards making it more commercial.

“It could also be potentially weaker in certain areas compared to casting, forging or metal printing with lasers.

“These are not trivial problems to solve."

That’s where Titomic’s huge new 3D printer comes in. The company hopes to use it to prove the technology really does work.

Eventually it hopes to print aircraft wings and submarine parts.

But Mr Lang’s ambitions are sky high – probably higher.

“It can print rocket fuselages up to 60 metres long,” he told investors and media on Wednesday.

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