Making sustainable materials through the ancient art of blacksmithing

Get your hands dirty with Monash Forge, a new student team investigating sustainable manufacturing processes through the ancient arts of forging, blacksmithing and casting.

Launched in 2019, Monash Forge experiments with creating new products out of recycled metals, breathing new life into materials otherwise destined for the scrapheap. Comprised of two subteams, the Forging team works on reshaping steel and other pieces of scrap metal in six specially designed forges. The Foundry team works on melting old soft drink cans and other metal pieces into a molten mix, pouring it into moulds and ingots ready to cool, set and reuse for a variety of purposes.

A multidisciplinary team of Engineering and Science students, Monash Forge was created primarily to offer Materials Science and Engineering students opportunities to apply their learning in new, practical ways. By melting, casting and forging metals in their dedicated workshop space, team members gain hands-on, working knowledge of the physical properties of materials. Much like fellow student team Precious Plastics, Monash Forge also aims to educate students and the wider community on the importance of recycling and sustainable manufacturing through workshops, outreach programs and tutorials.

“Monash Forge was created with the idea that we could change the way that we look at everyday items by seeing them as a collection of fundamental materials,” said Monash Forge Team leader Toby Pamment. “With this mindset, we hope to improve the current standards of recycling and materials lifecycle with a focus on metals, aspiring to expand into other materials and processes in the future.”

“The Monash Forge mission is only possible through both the support of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and the dedication, hard work and passion that our members have for manufacturing and sustainability,” he continued.

Forging section leader Matt Nixon says that the team is helping students to develop a portfolio of skills, while keeping a fascinating lost art alive. “It’s great to get a bit more hands-on, as Materials Science can be quite theoretically heavy," he said. "I’m really enjoying the opportunity to create a real product with my own hands, through learning and practising a craft that’s thousands of years old.”

Foundry section leader Seii Chen enjoys the process of turning recycled materials into something new while learning and testing out new skills. “We find used cans, crush them up using a pressure crusher, then melt them for use in casting ingots,” she said. “Instead of sending these materials to landfill, we’re using them as a tool for educational upskilling, and for creativity. I’m learning about metals, the importance of controlling temperature to get different results, and experimenting with what processes leads to the best purity.”

Foundry team member Ash Evans was inspired to join Monash Forge after completing her Co-op internship, where she undertook a research project on developing a sustainable toothpaste tube. “I sourced the materials and designed the tube myself, and as I enjoyed the sustainability side, I wanted to keep developing my skills in sustainable materials processes,” she said

"The Department is delighted to support Monash Forge, who have made some fantastic achievements in such a short time,“ said department head Professor Neil Cameron. “It’s great to see our students getting hands-on experience of traditional methods of working with materials, and also putting their new skills towards improving materials sustainability.”