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Aiming high: Australia makes world’s first 3D-printed jet engines

Published time: February 26, 2015 12:12
A handout photo taken and released on February 26, 2015 shows a 3D printed jet engine on display at the Avalon Airshow in Melbourne. (AFP Photo/Lydia Hale)










Using a gas turbine engine as a template, researchers from Melbourne's Monash University, and staff from the CSIRO and Deakin University, congratulated themselves for successfully printing an “aircraft quality” product, which could revolutionize the way aircraft are built in the future. 

"The significance... is the recognition by major manufacturers and engineering companies like Safran and Airbus that the material you can print using 3D metal printing is of aircraft quality and I think that's hugely significant," Monash university's vice provost for research, Ian Smith, told AFP. 

"It's a disruptive technology. We've seen a lot happening in the plastics and polymer space, but this is exciting because it's now metals and light metals and things like titanium, nickel and aluminum."

3D printing can slash production times from three months to just six days, researchers say.


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Xinhua Wu, director of the Monash center for additive manufacturing, said her team tediously scanned the separate parts of the template engine, with the project taking about one year to finish. 

One of the jet engines is on display at the Australian International Airshow in Melbourne with the other being featured in Toulouse at the French aerospace company Microturbo. 

Smith predicted the new technology could be used to build a variety of customized parts quickly and cheaply, specifically in the field of medicine. 

"Where we see some of the big opportunities are in the medical space where you can make bespoke parts for the body – replacement joints and hips designed specifically for that individual," he said. 

"A lot of surgeons want to make their own instruments that are customized for them or a particular surgical procedure." 

Engineers at Monash University have teamed up Amaero Engineering, the private company established by Monash to deliver the product to market. The Monash-led research group is making top-secret prototypes for Boeing, Airbus, Raytheon and Safran in a move that could be the “savior of Australia's struggling manufacturing sector,” Reuters reported.


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"This will allow aerospace companies to compress their development cycles because we are making these prototype engines three or four times faster than normal," said Simon Marriott, CEO of Amaero Engineering. 

Marriott said his company wants the 3D-printed engine components in flight tests within the next year and licensed for commercial application within the next two to three years. 

Australia, which has one of only three large-format 3D metal printers in the world (France and Germany have the others) is in a position to corner the market on the new technology, providing a much-needed boost to its economy. 

Market researcher Gartner forecast in 2014 that global spending on 3D printing will surge from $1.6 billion in 2015 to about $13.4 billion in 2018. 

Around since the 1980s, products created by 3D printing technology have included everything from bikinis to assault weapons.


3D printers poised to be next must-have gadget for shoppers

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Very good Miss, but how do I print a gun?

In his new National Curriculum for schools in England, announced this week, Education Secretary Michael Gove pledged to modernise design and technology education. This is thought to include introducing 3D printers into schools to help the next generation of children become creators rather than users.

Gove’s plan, together with the news yesterday that high-street retailer Maplin will be the first to sell 3D printers to the public for just under £700, reaffirms once again that this technology is on its way to being embraced by the general public.

The government is to be applauded for wanting to adopt a new technology like 3D printing in schools. The next generation of engineers, scientists and manufacturers will need to be highly skilled in computing, coding and equipped with technical knowledge to work with this kind of technology. It is an exciting thought that children will learn from an early age how to produce almost anything they like with the use of a 3D printer. Even at this early stage, 3D printers have already been used in the medical, transport, toy and hobby and food industries, amongst others, to great effect.

At the same time, this is yet another example of technology marching forward ahead of policy and legislation. It is equally important to introduce students to the regulation of 3D printing as it is to give them the equipment they need to carry it out.

The controversy over the 3D printing of a gun this year led to questions about the need for regulation. The US government responded in the only way it knew how by seizing the blueprints to the weapon and claiming control of the files containing them. However it was too late to stop the information being shared across the internet. The case taught us that when it comes to regulating this technology, we are in uncharted territory. The need for a structured policy framework is becoming ever more pressing. This was demonstrated to dramatic effect last week when journalists managed to smuggle a 3D printed gun past security and into the Israeli Parliament.

It is not just the extreme cases of 3D printed guns that need to be thought about; students should also be educated to some extent on the protection and exploitation of 3D printed products. Undoubtedly, getting children interested in these issues will be a challenge but it is a challenge that needs to be addressed.

Regulation can be in the form of legislation; however students could also be encouraged to think about new business models in dealing with this technology. We probably do not need to worry about ten year olds producing 3D printed weapons but they may be keen to print out a new toy in the model of another they have seen in the shops.

The force is strong with them. Watch out had better Toys R Us. Creative Tools

Learning lessons from the past and from the challenges faced by the entertainment industry, should, in theory, assist us in dealing with emerging technologies. More than a decade ago, Napster opened up the doors to a new world of file-sharing which was immediately dealt with through litigation. This has been the trend ever since. Similar to what took place during the Napster revolution, the recent surge in 3D printing sites such asThingiverse, have the potential to enable or at least encourage users to infringe products protected by intellectual property laws.

In 2011, Games Workshop a British game production company served a notice and takedown orde on Thingiverse under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998. This was in response to users producing models similar to those sold in Games Workshops. Although the dispute took place in the USA and was settled out of court, it is a prime example of the issues that need to be tackled if 3D printing continues its meteoric rise.

It is therefore important that whilst adopting this technology, the future generation is also educated and made aware of the regulatory and legislative challenges which come with new technologies. There are also other areas relating to 3D printing that need a more structured policy framework. If, for example 3D printing becomes “standard” in schools, we will also need to develop standards for the technology, including parts, processes and safety.

We should not dampen Gove’s enthusiasm for exciting new technologies, but it is imperative to think ahead before our children outsmart us again.


Today Tonight : The future of 3D printers

The power of 3D printers extends beyond their ability to print life-saving human body parts. The printers can also print almost anything from cutlery to complex machines.Mark Pestkowski sells 3D printers in Australia and says the printers could fundamentally change society."In 10 years' time, everyone will have a 3D printer. It will change the way we buy products because much of what we need, we can make at home.Watch the full interview with Mark Pestkowski from the 3D Printer Superstore on Today Tonight.

Published Friday, January 10, 2014 1:19PM EST

Oct 02, 2013

Australian company working on giant-sized 3D printer

Australian company ART 3D & Advanced Rollforming Technology, based in Thomastown, aims to make a giant 3D printer available by October.

3D Printing Industry reports that ART 3D’s first (and smallest) giant-sized machine will be 1 metre wide, 1 metre deep and 400 mm tall, and will have a footprint of 1,400 mm by 1,400 mm.
The company was started by Jason Simpson and his father to create components and machinery for the manufacturing industry.
“In the mid 90′s we started building our first robotic X-Ray system for Berthold Australia, end customer being ASIO (The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation),” Simpson told 3D Printing Industry.
“With the success of that, we started to do many things from medical imaging equipment to equipment to aid the manufacturing of radio pharmaceuticals, including radiation protection equipment.”
The machine that the Simpsons are currently working on “has 4 separate zones for heating using less than 2000 watts in total for all 4 zones heating up to 120 degrees,” as well as a 12-rail system for the x and y-axes, with four extruders printing with 3 mm and 1.75 mm filaments, and uses a Windows 8 operating system. They aim to keep its price below $100,000.

source: Manufacturers' Monthly by 

A 3D printing trend playing out at the Consumer Electronics Show bodes a future in which shoes, eyeglass frames, toys and more are printed at home as easily as documents.

Music star even made a debut here as creative officer for 3D Systems, predicting that the technology will do for many basic items what iTunes did to the way people get songs.

He predicted that within a decade, 3D printers will be common in homes and people will print out things like shoes, belts, eyeglasses and accessories instead of dashing to a shop to buy the items.

"3D printers will be in your house like refrigerators, TVs and microwaves," said.

3D printing has been around for about 25 years but has seen a surge in popularity as the technology improves and costs drop to a point accessible for hobbyists, artists and entrepreneurs.

Printers aimed at the home market typically use corn-based, biodegradable plastic layered and shaped using lasers and heated plates.

"Think of it as laying microscopic bricks; layers and layers of these bricks," said Roger Chang, chief executive of Singapore-based Pirate 3D, which makes a Buccaneer home printer that sells for $497.

"Eventually, if you put enough bricks you get a building."

Brooklyn-based MakerBot was the only 3D printer company at CES five years ago. Now, it is surrounded by rivals on a large section of show floor devoted to the trend.

"We feel like this is the year of 3D printing," MakerBot spokeswoman Jenifer Howard told AFP.

"Now, entrepreneurs without major financial backing can create prototypes themselves and even do small-scale manufacturing. It changes the whole picture."

Along with objects such as figurines, chess pieces and appliance handles, printers can pump out ball bearings, gears and components for creations with moving parts.

"3D printing really is limitless," Howard said.

She noted that aerospace and defense contractor Lockheed Martin used MakerBot printers to make a part for a telescope set to launch into space in about four years.

MakerBot printers have been used in Africa to make prosthetic hands at a fraction of what they might typically cost, according to Howard.

Digital plans for the "robo-hand" have been downloaded 55,000 times, according to MakerBot, which makes a vast library of digital blueprints available free at its website.

Fifth-generation Makerbot printers range from $1,375 to $6,500.

"Once you start 3D printing, you actually look at the world differently," Howard said.

"Instead of thinking of going to the store, you say you can make it yourself."

3D printing has gone from languishing to being an attention-getting trend, but it will take "killer use cases" to get them into homes, according to NPD Group analyst Stephen Baker.

"Most people aren't printing their own cellphone cases or backpacks," Baker said.

"You can make an argument that 3D printing was languishing and now there is energy in a category that was pretty dull. We are probably a ways away from disrupting manufacturing."

3D Pirate's Chang thinks independent toymakers will be among those leading to making 3D printing mainstream.

"The same way iTunes allowed independent musicians to flourish by posting digital songs, indie toy designers can let their customers just print out the toys without worrying about economies of scale or distribution deals," Chang said.

Andrew Boggeri of Las Vegas-based Full Spectrum Laser cited a study indicating that the average US home could save up to $2,000 annually by printing their own replacement for 27 commonly broken household items.

"The US is a hotbed of 3D printing right now," Boggeri said.