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Additive Manufacturing Centre of Excellence plans to bring 3D-metal-printing technology to Gippsland

3D metal-printing technology could be used for everything from farm machinery components to hot-rod parts

A feasibility study is looking into ways that additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, could be implemented to create metal parts and potentially revolutionise the local manufacturing industry.

Federation University, in partnership with CSIRO and HRL Technology Group, is seeking to establish the Additive Manufacturing Centre of Excellence (AMCE) in Gippsland to help improve local access to 3D metal-printing technology and the business opportunities it can provide.

The Centre aims to be a technology incubator and to seed additive manufacturing technologies into the Gippsland region, providing access and training that would previously have been inaccessible for local manufacturing and engineering businesses.

It will house state-of-the-art, 3D stainless-steel printers and post-processing infrastructure as well as the latest software tools, and is likely to attract high-achieving STEM students to the University.

With funding through Regional Development Victoria’s Latrobe Valley Economic Facilitation Fund, Federation University has partnered with HRL and CSIRO to conduct information sessions as part of a feasibility study into the implantation of this technology in the region.

Additive manufacturing with metals is currently done in the medical and aerospace sectors using high-grade materials such as titanium and super alloys, but is usually too expensive for small-to-medium enterprises to be involved in.

But the AMCE is seeking to find a niche by printing common industrial materials such as stainless steels and strong, flexible maraging steels. It also has the potential for use with the region’s carbon and graphene resources.

This technology has a wide range of potential uses, from replacing broken components in utility asset maintenance and farm machinery to providing parts for hot-rod enthusiasts that can’t be otherwise sourced.

Additive manufacturing provides a solution to the storage of spare parts, enabling businesses to print the parts they need ‘on demand’ rather than maintaining a large inventory.

The technology has particular relevance to Gippsland, as the region has an existing workforce with the skills that can be applied to this type of additive manufacturing – skill sets that will be important for the trades of the future.

The Centre will enable local manufacturers to move directly from the design and analysis phase of an item to its production, reducing the time it takes to get their products to market and minimising waste.

The facility could potentially become the first nationally accredited education centre for these emerging jobs.

It is anticipated that the Centre will assist the region to diversify its economy and transition towards more innovative industries.