The first iLAuNCH Trailblazer project is underway to establish an advanced manufacturing facility that will design and deliver stronger more durable satellite and hypersonic vehicle structures using additive manufacturing (AM).
Additive manufacturing, the process of creating an object by building it one layer at a time has disrupted the traditional manufacturing world, where subtractive manufacturing, created by cutting away at a solid block of material until the final product is complete was once the norm.
Partners in this iLAuNCH Trailblazer program includes the Future Industries Institute at the University of South Australia (UniSA) and Adelaide-based advanced manufacturer VPG Innovation.
“This important project is well underway in one of our key focus areas – additive manufacturing,” said iLAuNCH Trailblazer Executive Director, Darin Lovett.
“Increasing the availability of custom structures, which are space-ready, will support the growing space sector.”
“The partnership will also support a world-class Australian sovereign manufacturing capability that will create new jobs, alongside a highly trained workforce, leading to global exports within the space industry and other markets.”
The facility will be located near space sector businesses in Adelaide and will support the industry with rapid 3D printing of metals for space structures.
“The iLAuNCH hub is dedicated to building the space engineering capability of Australian Manufacturing. This project, the first to kick off for the space trailblazer program, will deliver additive manufacturing, at scale to Australia,” said University of South Australia’s Industry Professor Colin Hall.
“The project is full steam ahead; we already have two engineers in Sweden developing the practical skills to operate and maintain the systems. It’s a great to work with a company, that is innovative, proactive and has a long-term vision.”
Partnering with UniSA’s established additive manufacturing capability, this project will support an increase of VPG employees and the upskilling of current ones in the area of AM for space applications.
“VPG Innovation is excited to collaborate closely with the esteemed researchers from the Future Industries Institute at the University of South Australia (UniSA) to introduce and advance this cutting-edge technology within the Australian landscape. This partnership reflects our commitment to fostering
innovation and cultivating sovereign capability on a national level,” said Group CEO and Co-founder of Stärke-AMG, the parent company of VPG Innovation, Al Jawhari.
The technology behind this new endeavour will use additive manufacturing through Electron Beam Melting (EBM) of metals.
The EBM technique has the huge advantage that almost all of the energy put into creating the electron beam goes into melting the metallic dust. This is extremely important as the dust that we are talking about is high temperature metals such as titanium and nickel which melt at very high temperatures or can become brittle.
The EBM process takes place in a vacuum, allowing for a high temperature in a non-oxygenated environment, which relieves internal stresses and results in more resilient, flexible parts.
The design freedoms allowed by additive manufacturing methods such as 3D printing provide designers of space objects with immense opportunities to optimise parts for performance by removing the limitations imposed by traditional manufacturing methods.
Together through iLAuNCH, this project will enable the partners to develop best practices for manufacturing design and devise the most appropriate way to build parts with this novel new technology.