3D Printer HardwareAerospace AMMetal Additive ManufacturingMulti-material 3D printing

iLAuNCH installs Nikon SLM-280 at CSIRO’s Lab22 facility

The multi-metal 3D printer, which will be used for aerospace applications, can print metals side-by-side, in one continuous print

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As part of the iLAuNCH Trailblazer initiative, a new multi-metal 3D printer has been commissioned, in Melbourne, to make space missions more affordable and efficient by creating lighter, faster, and more robust aerospace components. The Nikon SLM-280 at CSIRO’s Lab22 facility will print metals side-by-side, in one continuous print. The technology is very well suited to aerospace and space, where high performance and lightweight materials are the fundamental drivers of the designs – giving engineers the design freedom to consolidate parts to reduce mass and cost, ultimately making strategic weight decisions where needed.

“This capability is the first of its kind as a production machine in Australia, in fact, the southern hemisphere, and iLAuNCH is pleased to open up new manufacturing possibilities for locally made products,” said Dr. Joni Sytsma, Chief Technology Officer at iLAuNCH Trailblazer. “Australian companies manufacturing satellites and rockets now have a real advantage to optimize their designs and improve performance, all made with a reduced lead time right here in Melbourne. We anticipate that the additional capabilities of this technology can also bring forth novel superalloys that are capable of maintaining ultra-high strength at the ultra-high temperatures that hypersonic vehicles need to survive, with a view to hypersonic air travel in the future.”

The manufacturing costs for these complex geometries are very high when limited to conventional manufacturing processes.

iLAuNCH installs Nikon SLM-280 at CSIRO’s Lab22 facility. The multi-metal 3D printer can print metals side-by-side, in one continuous print.

In rocket engines for example, typically liquid oxygen and fuel flow through the engine at an extremely high pressure, which are then being injected into the combustion chamber. In particular, on the oxygen side, there needs to be significant protection of the metal surfaces against oxidative attacks of the metal. This multi-metal printer allows the oxidative-resistant layer to be manufactured in one go with the structural metal – speeding up production times and ultimately reducing the cost of the resultant structure.

Although rocket engines themselves are typically high-performance heat exchangers, this technology is also applicable to heat exchangers used on aircraft and high-performance ground vehicles such as Formula 1 and other race cars. As low weight, high strength, and high heat exchanger efficiency is crucial in racing as well as aerospace and defense, this technology and its advanced manufacturing capability are going to enable the development of novel aerospace products that are of high value to the whole ecosystem.

“We welcome Australian researchers and industry to access this technology for ultra-high performance applications at CSIRO’s Lab22 Innovation Centre, one of Australia’s leading centers for metallic additive manufacturing, located at CSIRO in Clayton Victoria,” said Dr. Cherry Chen, Senior Research Scientist at CSIRO. “Other uses to consider include satellite structure and componentry, as well as developing novel radiation shielding with alloys that are in development in the various laboratories under the iLAuNCH Trailblazer.”

iLAuNCH installs Nikon SLM-280 at CSIRO’s Lab22 facility. The multi-metal 3D printer can print metals side-by-side, in one continuous print.

The multi-metal version of the SLM-280 significantly enhances the standard model, which has already been proven internationally, with examples such as a monolithic thrust chamber for a rocket propulsion engine with a unique lattice structure with CellCore GmbH, an engineering firm from Berlin; a hydraulic valve block with the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, achieving 66% size reduction and 76% weight reduction; and a gooseneck bracket for reduced buy to fly ratio of 17 down to 1.5, and weight reduction of 31% with ASCO, a Belgian aerospace company.

This multi-metal 3D printer is the only one of its kind in Australia and offers users a real advantage in AM design. “For decades, the technology used to bond dissimilar metals was predominantly Hot Isostatic Pressure (HIP) or the actual welding or brazing of two unique metals into one component,” said Donald Godfrey, Global Director of Business Development for Aviation and Defense at Nikon SLM Solutions. “Delivering Laser Powder Bed Fusion technology to generate a truly functionally graded material component to CSIRO marks the first time the technology has been taken out of Germany. This technology sets a new cornerstone in the aerospace and defense and space industry for what is possible.”

For iLAuNCH Trailblazer projects, SLM 280 technology will make potential space missions more affordable and efficient by creating lighter, faster, and more robust space components.

Composites AM 2024

This new market study from VoxelMatters provides an in-depth analysis and forecast of the three core segments of the composites additive manufacturing market: hardware, materials and services. The ...

Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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