Australian manufacturer Titomic has launched what it refers to as the “world’s largest and fastest 3D metal printer,” allowing the company to print large industrial parts, from airplane wings to submarines.
Titomic’s 3D metal printer, unveiled in Melbourne yesterday, measures 9mx3m and can print beyond its size, using Titomic’s exclusive Kinetic Fusion technology.
The technology draws from a 2007 study by CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) as the federal government searched for a way to capitalise on Australia’s rich titanium resources rather than simply export the metal.
Titomic’s process includes cold-gas dynamic spraying of titanium or titanium alloy particles onto a scaffold to produce a load-bearing structure. The process enables Titomic to print entire airplane wings, ship parts or submarines with zero waste and to exact, designed specifications.
The process was inspired by Cold Spray Coating process, which was developed by Russians about 30 years ago and had been used extensively over the world, mainly as a coating process. No one had considered using the same concept in additive manufacturing.
“We are at the forefront of revolutionising the metal industry. The potential for this technology is practically unlimited,” Titomic CEO, Jeff Lang told Manufacturers’ Monthly.
“The conventional 3D printing processes have size limitations. This is because metals tend to oxidise when heated and therefore the 3D printing has to be done inside a vacuum chamber. But in our process, the metal particles come nowhere near their melting point. That is why it is called cold spray process.
“Another fundamental difference between this process and other additive manufacturing processes is the speed. Depending on the complexity of the metal parts, we can deposit between 20-45 kilograms of metal per an hour with one spray head. The normal 3D printers can usually deposit about one kilogram in 20-24 hours. So we are really bringing volume into that market,” Lang said.
The process is efficient both in terms of processing time and material efficiency. “The current subtractive manufacturing methods involve machining 90% of a metal billet to the final part, where the scrap cannot be meaningfully recycled. This is energy-intensive and not sustainable. Titomic’s process helps save up to 80 per cent in material,” Lang said.
But Titomic’s technology is not limited to 3D printing. The additive manufacturing process also finds applications in coating of large industrial-scale parts, such as ship and aeroplane components. The process also enables the company to create advanced composite materials by fusing different layers of metals.
“Another exciting advantage of the kinetic fusion process is that it enables us to fuse dissimilar materials together, thereby creating advanced materials with superior properties. This puts us at the forefront of pioneering new smart materials that can be specifically designed for different components and parts,” Lang said.
Earlier this week, Titomic signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Fincantieri, a leading Italian shipbuilding company, to evaluate the potential for Titomic Kinetic Fusion to be used in Fincantieri’s manufacturing activities.
Titomic is also working with top defence and aerospace companies to develope advanced materials, as well as creating consumer goods such as bicycles, gold clubs and titanium luggages for famous international brands.
“We are setting up the world’s first production line with additive manufacturing. We use robots throughout our production line, from spraying the metal into the forms to painting and polishing,” Lang said.