The Future of Engineering
Monash University researchers along with collaborators from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Deakin University have printed a jet engine. In fact, they have printed two!
Professor Xinhua Wu, the director of the Monash Centre said, "It was our chance to prove what we could do but when we reviewed the plans we realised that the engine had evolved over years of manufacture. So we took the engine to pieces and scanned the components. Then we printed two copies."
The project was highly complex and took a year to complete with funding from Monash University, the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF), and others, resulting in the prize for 'Innovation for Product and Technology' from Safran. Plus the project has created advanced manufacturing opportunities for both large and small Australian businesses.
"The project is a spectacular proof of concept that's leading to significant contracts with aerospace companies. It was a challenge for the team and pushed the technology to new heights of success – no one has printed an entire engine commercially yet," says Ben Batagol, of Amaero Engineering, the company created by Monash University to make the technology available to Australian industry.
Additive manufacturing (or 3-D printing as it’s become known), is obviously also emerging as a popular technology in the space industry because it increases the potential to reduce spacecraft mass and cut launch costs.
The International Space Station received its first experimental 3D printer In 2014. It’s first task was to print a spare part for itself. After an astronaut mentioned he could do with a socket wrench, a design was quickly developed, transmitted to the station and produced in orbit.
On a bigger scale, Lockheed Martin Space Systems (LMSS), the company responsible for the early adoption of the technology, have built flight-model components such as the Inconel pressure vent, used in the flight test of Nasa's new Orion capsule on 5 December 2014, and a set of eight structural brackets on the Juno spacecraft, which is currently en route to Jupiter.
According to Rick Ambrose, the president of LMSS, 3D printing can reduce production times from months to days: "it could take a year to build a propulsion system. But printing can reduce this to days or weeks".
In our next article, we’ll be looking at how 3-D printing is making a difference in the manufacturing industry where the tools themselves are printed rather than the product.
Is additive manufacturing or 3D printing the future of engineering? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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