Jul 17, 2017 | By Benedict

Australia’s Charles Darwin University (CDU) has used a 400,000 AUD ($313,000) government grant to acquire a LIGHTSPEE3D metal 3D printer from Australian additive manufacturing specialist SPEE3D. The printer can purportedly print 100 to 1,000 times faster than other printers.

Prototype of SPEE3D's LIGHTSPEE3D metal 3D printer

$313,000 is a lot of money, but researchers at Charles Darwin University in Australia’s Northern Territory think their new LIGHTSPEE3D metal 3D printer could be well worth it. That’s because the high-speed additive manufacturing system actually promises huge cost savings: as well as printing “100 times faster” than other printers, it can also cost around 100 times less to do so.

“We've got a part that we did for an automotive supplier and we were able to bring the 3D print time down from about 100 to 200 hours to about 20 minutes,” said Steven Camilleri of SPEE3D, the 3D printing company that produces the LIGHTSPEE3D printer. “We were able to bring the cost down from sort of $3,000 to $5,000 to about $30.”

By getting hold of their own LIGHTSPEE3D printer, CDU scientists will be able to collaborate with SPEE3D to discover exactly what they can do with the high-speed, low-cost machine. Their long-term goal will be to establish Silicon Valley-type community and industry in Darwin, built around the power of their new acquisition.

“We'll be doing work with CDU, essentially looking into different applications for the printer,” Camilleri explained. “We want to scale various uses for the printer that might exist very quickly, so we need more people around who might be working on what those opportunities are with us.”

The potential for a next-generation manufacturing community is what convinced the Australian government to part with $313,000 for the 3D printer. And Michael Gunner, Northern Territory Chief Minister, thinks research carried out on the new machine could really put this part of Australia on the map.

Minister Michael Gunner (left) gets up close and personal with a metal 3D printed part at CDU

(Image: ABC News / Lucy Marks)

“You're talking about a massive change forward now in how you actually manufacture: you can do it very local and very specific and the Territory can lead the way,” Gunner said.

Although CDU isn’t exactly out in the wilderness, SPEE3D thinks its LIGHTSPEE3D 3D printer is particularly suited for organizations working in remote areas, since it cuts out a lot of the back-and-forth between producers and suppliers, including the time and cost associated with tooling.

“We believe we've got a process that suits manufacturing better than some of the existing processes for metal manufacturing,” Camilleri said. "It's got to do with convenience so rather than having many, many months and weeks of leave time for parts, we can bring that right down to essentially instantaneous.”

The LIGHTSPEE3D was built and tested in Victoria, a state in southeastern Australia, and was made to be installed in production facilities. In other words, it’s much more than just a rapid prototyping machine.

But despite its industrial power (and high price point), the LIGHTSPEE3D has purportedly been built with usability in mind: its interactive touch screen is complemented by a “gaming-inspired” user interface that can be mastered without extensive training.

That’s about all we know about the relatively new metal 3D printer though. At present, the SPEE3D website gives little away in terms of how its metal 3D printer actually works, and we therefore don’t have any kind of technical specs for the high-speed machine.

The LIGHTSPEE3D printer was nominated as a finalist for the 2016 Premier’s Design Challenge in the Product Design category.



Posted in 3D Printer



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