A new era for 3D printing

With additive manufacturing set to majorly disrupt most industries, it will have a substantial impact on logistics and the design of supply chains. LMH was on hand to report on the launch of the world’s fastest and largest 3D printer.

The revolution of 3D printing has been transforming many industries, with recent developments in aerospace, manufacturing, health and even the food industry there isn’t an industry untouched by the technological development of additive manufacturing.

It was recently announced that the world’s first 3D printed homes would be built in a town in the Netherlands and there have also been many news reports of other impressive developments. Machines are becoming increasingly capable of printing, cooking and serving food items such as a burger, as well as major developments in the health industry including, which even include 3D printed prosthetic limbs.

The Logistics Trend Radar, published by DHL, cites an annual growth rate of 13.5 per cent for additive manufacturing. As logistics is an industry that is primarily about moving products from one place to another, developments in 3D printing will change the way the industry works has to think and function.

This technology is gaining significant traction and beginning to shape the future of many industries, including the logistics industry and the supply chain at large. Though originally used in the aerospace and manufacturing industry as a way to create small parts and prototypes, it’s evident that as 3D printing advances, there will be increasing demand for items to be printed on-demand, on-site and to order.

The possibilities for the future of 3D printing are limitless, including 3D printing human cells, artificial skin and even artificial ears. However much of the processes used makes it difficult for mass production in terms of process time it cannot compete with large-scale manufacturing times as well as the inability to produce larger scale items and parts needed in many industries. This is where Melbourne-based additive manufacturing company, Titomic is offering what it believes is a revolutionary new process for 3D printing.

The world’s largest and fasted 3D printer 

At an event in May this year, Titomic launched the largest and fastest metal 3D printer. Philip Vafiadis, Chair and Non-Executive Director at Titomic told attendees that the machine will redefine the size of 3D systems using a revolutionary method that has never before been realised. “We’ve been waiting for decades to deliver this dream and what we are delivering today is more than a machine, it is a capability that will revolutionise the manufacturing industry for decades to come,” Philip says.

“If we look at the metals industry, I like to joke that it started 5,000 years ago. Nothing has really fundamentally changed in those 5,000 years. But today is a pioneering moment,” Jeff Lang, CEO, Titomic says.

A self-confessed tech-nerd, Jeff says that this is an idea he has been working on for ten years and he is thrilled to finally present it to the industry. 

Kinetic fusion

According to Jeff, as the process used for typical 3D printing involves heat, this presents a series of problems, particularly when trying to develop the process for a larger scale projects. The heat used to mould and print the material produces oxidation, which means that the product must be contained in a glass box, leading to size limitations. In addition to this, expansion and contraction caused by heat can lead to morphing as well as process that is slow and only suitable for small-scale projects.

The theory behind Titomic’s alternative offering is kinetic fusion. Though this is similar to current 3D printing processes in that objects are printed layer by layer, it is different in that a jet stream is created to shoot out the metal at such a speed that it fuses onto a mould plate. The particles travel at supersonic speeds, making the particles soften and then they are caused to mould together through fusion.

As this process does not require any heat, there is no limitation on size. “The only limitation we have is noise, the machine can get up to 140 decibels, but as this is a cold process, we don’t get distortion or have to contain the product in a glass box,”, Jeff says. According to Jeff, the capabilities go beyond what was ever possible before, with a build-speed of 45 kilograms per hour compared to industry standard of 1 kilogram in 24 hours.

Sustainable manufacturing for future generations

Having the largest and fastest 3D printer isn’t the only benefit of Titomic’s kinetic fusion. For Jeff, it also has sustainability benefits. “The smarter way we use resources is critical and here we are creating new knowledge,” he says. With additive manufacturing, you print what you need, so there is much less waste. According to Jeff, as we have limited resources, this is an advantage that will be crucial in the future. The Titomic process boasts less than 10 per cent waste.

At the launch event the word ‘Titomic’ was printed on a metal plate. This was the very first showcase of how the technology works in real time. Jeff also showed a bike frame that was printed in less than 30 minutes and spoke of the potential this technology has for all industries. “Our vision includes this technology being used in ship yards, mining locations as well as used within the aerospace sector. There is also more consumer-based applications such as the ability to print bike frames and luggage,” he says.

For Jeff, one of the most exciting aspects of this is the creation of new knowledge. “This is the next generation of digital manufacturing; this knowledge is filtering down into TAFE and trade level and preparing the professionals of the future for change. We’re talking about smart tech here and you can technically run the whole system on a mobile phone.”