Researchers at Swinburne University of Technology, Australia have developed a Direct Metal Deposition machine which is the size of a bedroom and can dramatically speed up the process for manufacturing components out of aluminium and other metals.
Professor Syed Masood in the Direct Metal Deposition machine at Swinburne University. Photo: Wayne Taylor
This 3D printer can produce complex 3D shapes in steel, titanium, nickel, chromium or cobalt etc. It looks like a small train cabin with sliding doors from outside.
Traditionally aluminium components, such as those used in motor vehicles, are cast into a steel die or mould. The molten aluminium takes considerable time to cool down, and the component cannot be removed from the mould until it had cooled and hardened.
Swinburne PhD graduate Dr Khalid Imran and his supervisor Syed Masood, professor of Advanced Manufacturing at Swinburne's Industrial Research Institute, used this 3D printer to layer steel, copper and a third metal that mixes with both copper and steel in between and produce a predominantly copper mould.
An example of what the printer can do. Photo: Wayne Taylor
This process makes components directly from powder, without the need for casting, forging, rolling, cutting, machining, welding or drilling. It allows molten metal tools to cool down much faster than was previously possible, particularly useful in making moulds for die-casting. The die cavities are very complex and the 3D printer provides a true metallurgical bond and it has little to no waste.
"The bimetallic tooling is of better quality [than traditional processes]," Professor Masood says. "It has less heat-affected zones, which means less thermal cracking or thermal fatigue, and minimum distortion. We have measured the quality of the parts produced and we have proven that the quality of the parts produced by bimetallic tooling is as good as the original tooling methods."
"You are just adding material layer by layer to get the shape, whereas the traditional manufacturing technique is to take your hunk of material and remove [parts of it] to get to the shape," says Professor Mazumder, a joint professor in mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering at the University of Michigan in the US. "In many components, 80 per cent of the material is just removed and wasted, whereas here, instead of removing 80 per cent you are just adding 20 per cent. That's the big deal. It's almost a paradigm shift."
Professor Masood says this 3D printer can be used for companies in tooling development, tool and metal component repair, surface modification and coating, new alloy development and direct metal prototypes. He believes 3D printers could help to save Australia's manufacturing industry.
Posted in 3D Printers
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