Feb 27, 2019 | By Thomas

PhD candidate Jimmy Toton from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, has won the 2019 Young Defence Innovator Award and $15,000 prize at the Avalon International Airshow for the research of 3D printed steel tools that can cut titanium alloys. This project is conducted with Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC) and industry partner Sutton Tools at RMIT's Advanced Manufacturing Precinct.

Credit: RMIT University

"Now that we've shown what's possible, the full potential of 3D printing can start being applied to this industry, where it could improve productivity and tool life while reducing cost," Toton said.

Because the metals used in Defence and aerospace are so strong, making high quality tools to cut them is a major and expensive challenge. The team's steel milling cutters were made using Laser Metal Deposition technology, which works by feeding metal powder into a laser beam. As the laser moves and the metal solidifies at the trailing edge, a 3D object is built layer by layer. This additive manufacturing process also allows for objects to be built with complex internal and external structures.

"Manufacturers need to take full advantage of these new opportunities to become or remain competitive, especially in cases where manufacturing costs are high," Toton said. "There is real opportunity now to be leading with this technology."

Credit: RMIT University

Toton is now working towards establishing a print-to-order capability for Australia's advanced manufacturing supply chains.

Toton’s supervisor Professor Brandt commented, "Additive technology is rising globally and Jimmy's project highlights a market where it can be applied to precisely because of the benefits that this technology offers over conventional manufacturing methods."



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Sean wrote at 2/28/2019 6:53:20 PM:

I think the whole point of this is to push the technology (R&D) and see what's possible. Yes, today lasers are inefficient in power conversion and this probably could be milled at a third the cost. A few years down the line, who knows?

Christian wrote at 2/27/2019 11:48:30 PM:

Greg that's a good point. Also have to consider the cost of the laser printer as a whole. The cost might be more justifiable for applications that require custom profile tools. The end mill they pictured looks pretty standard.

Greg wrote at 2/27/2019 5:20:42 PM:

This is impressive as a lot of 3d printing technologies make parts that are porous or have random internal voids. What is missing from this story is the energy cost: running a laser capable of fusing metal powders is inherently inefficient. Even the best CO2 or fiber lasers require thousands of watts of input power to make a beam of a 100 watts. There is lots of loss between the power source and the laser beam. Add to that the cooling requirements for the laser device, cooling for the power supplies themselves, it all adds up to a net laser output less than 20% of total input power. Getting a laser sintered part to the density need for tooling is a major breakthrough, but if that one tool costs thousands of dollars, was the trip really necessary?

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