3D printers to save manufacturing industry

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Developers at Swinburne University believe that a new 3D printer can help save Australia's manufacturing industry. The newly designed printer dispenses metal instead of ink and is developed to dramatically speed up the process for manufacturing for metal parts.

The printer prints metal objects in layers using computer-designed plans and is capable of producing complex metal shapes in steel, chromium or cobalt which is used in engineering materials.

Developed by Professor Syed Masood, the 3D printer is the size of a bedroom and from the outside the printer looks more like a train cabin.

Professor Masood explained that he has experimented with the composition of metal tools that manufacturers use to produce objects such as car components.

He has used the Direct Metal Deposition machine to combine copper and steel in new quantities and layers, allowing molten metal tools to cool down much faster than was previously possible. This minimises lengthy waiting periods from the process of producing metal parts, reports SMH.

According to Masood, 3D printing technology is developing rapidly, allowing objects to be produced in metal, wax and plastic. Irrespective of any geometry, no matter how complex it is, can be created layer by layer.

''This means that manufacturing may shift from the conventional places to household garages or backyards and places where you want quick production of parts in a very short time,'' Masood said.

The machine uses a laser to melt powdered metals such as titanium and nickel into complex shapes and is dispensed through a nozzle on to a steel bed.

Professor Masood believes 3D printing has numerous uses and will transform fields such as construction and healthcare. He also expects that 3D printers will be used in the future to reproduce body parts, including hips and even organs, in exact proportions to fit the patient. '

The University of Southern California is also using similar massive printers to build houses from concrete.

“Complexity is not a problem. This is all very revolutionary technology,” added Professor Masood.

Image SMH online, Wayne Taylor