The Matthews Steer team was fortunate to attend the Lab 22 Northlink Innovation Series: CSIRO manufacturing materials and processes technologies tour in October.
Held at the CSIRO’s Clayton Campus, the tour focused on techniques, processes and applications for metallic 3D printing and was designed to connect local businesses to latest technology.
Lab 22 is so named because titanium is the twenty-second element on the periodic table.
“Lab 22 is here to help Australian industry grow,” said
Leon Prentice, the CSIRO’s research director of metals. “If you want to connect with the CSIRO and find out how research into - and developments in - metallic printing can positively effect your business, then we are here.”
Metallic 3D printing has a number of advantages over traditional manufacturing.
Because there are no tooling costs, many items are cheaper to manufacture through 3D printing than traditional methods of manufacturing.
Metallic 3D printing is resource efficient as there is only a small amount of machining involved in shaping parts or items, which results in a reduction in wastage of expensive materials such as titanium. This advantage is particularly pertinent in the aerospace industry.
And, metallic 3D printing streamlines the supply chain as items can be made on demand so businesses don’t have to commit themselves to stocking and warehousing parts. With 3D printing, businesses can make to order, rather than stockpiling their parts or products and hoping someone buys them.
While a polymer (plastics) printer can cost as little as $500 today, metallics printers are still out of the reach of the average Australian business, which is where the CSIRO comes in says Director of Lab 22, Daniel East.
“Anyone can be a maker but you still need expertise and knowledge to make something that is fit for purpose,” he says.
“We have a wide variety of 3D printing machines on site, and contacts within the university sector who have other machines to help businesses get projects done.”
Lab 22 can assist with all stages in the production chain, from research and development to prototyping and production.
“Metallic 3D printing enables greater - and quicker - prototyping, with quick iteration manufacturing,” said East.
A CSIRO R&D agreement allows local manufacturers to access expensive machinery until they can build a business case to buy their own 3D metallics printing machine.
“It’s not cheap, but there are eligibility-based government grants you can apply for,” said East.
“If you have an idea but you’re just a small company or an individual, we have a kick starter program that provides a head start, then as you grow business you can qualify for a government grant, and go on from there to have a long and successful relationship with the CSIRO.”
With the price of feed stock such as stainless steal, titanium aluminum, and nickel-based alloys coming down all the time, metallic 3D printing is becoming more accessible but East reiterates the importance of accessing the expert guidance on offer at the CSIRO when undertaking R&D projects.
“Just because a computer says you can do it, doesn’t mean it’s going to work,” he says. “You can't put your faith blindly in a computer and ignore your own knowledge, or that of people who are undertaking 3D printing projects day in, day out.”
The team at Matthews Steer can assist you apply for grants to help fund your business’ use of the metallic 3D printing facilities at the CSIRO. Please call us on (03) 9325 6300 to find out how we can help.