Australian company Titomic has recently launched in Melbourne what is reportedly the world’s largest and fastest metal 3D printer. The innovative bus-sized device is designed to be a global game changer in the large-scale manufacturing industry, as it supposedly has the ability to manufacture aircraft wings, submarines, ship hulls, rocket fuselage, and other large objects.
The 3D printer has been put to test in front of an audience as part of the unveiling ceremony at the company’s automated mega-manufacturing facility in Melbourne.
The entire project is backed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency, and is based on a 2007 federal government’s study which was conducted in order to find a way to monetize the country’s rich titanium resources instead of just exporting the metal.
The new mega-machine measures 40m x 20m, with a build area that is 9 meters long, 3 meters wide and 1.5 meters high (29.5 x 9.8 x 4.9 ft). But this does not mean that the printing process is limited to these dimensions – the machine can actually be configured to build even larger objects.
Just like existing plastic and metal printers, the new machine prints layer by layer, but the difference lies in the fact that it uses a unique process known as Titomic Kinetic Fusion. So instead of using thermal energy to fuse metal powders, this new 3D printer uses a pre-programmed robot to accelerate titanium powder and other particles within a gas-powered jet stream and then spray the mixture on a scaffold at very high speed (1km per second), from a print head or nozzle, resulting in the particles being mechanically fused into solid form.
This process leads to less waste of material as opposed to traditional manufacturing techniques. Also, the fact that it uses kinetic energy instead of extreme heat means less heat deformation risks.
In a statement for Financial Times, Titomic’s CEO Jeff Lang said, “Only a year ago people thought it would not be possible to use this type of printing process to make large-scale metal parts for industry. Now we are doing it larger and faster than anyone else.”
Using the Titomic Kinetic Fusion technique, the 3D printer will also be able to make multi-part components as single parts. Seeing how they won’t need cutting, bending, welding, these parts will inevitably be lighter and stronger and the production stream will become fully automated.
As mentioned, the company aims to initially produce military, aerospace, marine and sporting goods, but the versatility of the new technology will allow it to later extend to other everyday objects, like bicycle frames, medical equipment, luxury luggage, complex automotive parts, and more.