A high-flying future for Australian Manufacturing

Professor Xinhua Wu

Professor Xinhua Wu

The Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing (M-CAM), built to drive the establishment of high-end, waste-free, tailored manufacturing for the aerospace industry, was launched in Melbourne today.

Officially opened by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Member for Chisholm, Ms Anna Burke MP, M-CAM is the most advanced facility of its type in Australia and probably second to none internationally. Heavyweights of the aerospace field, Microturbo, European Space Agency, NASA Langley Research Centre, Airbus, BAE Systems and Carpenter Technology USA were represented at the launch.

Additive manufacturing, including 3D printing, is a revolutionary technology that builds products directly from digital designs through a layering process. Already capable of creating products for small aero engines, additive manufacturing technology is a booming area of research. It massively shortens design-to-product cycle times, reduces energy and materials usage, and is not reliant on economies of scale for profit.

Traditional manufacturing methods involve creating moulds and casting components, or honing them from large billets of metal, resulting in wastage of up to 95 per cent. By building products from the ground up, additive manufacturing is virtually waste-free and designs can be easily tweaked.

Monash University Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Ed Byrne said the combination of expertise and high-end facilities at M-CAM were world-class.

"Additive manufacturing is a transformative technology - it has been described as underpinning a new industrial revolution. At Monash we have recognised this potential and actively sought to recruit the knowledge and build the infrastructure required to be a regional, if not global, leader in the field," Professor Byrne said.

Australia provides 51 per cent of the world's titanium ore - a material considered vital for aerospace innovation. With an initial focus on titanium and nickel high performance alloys, M-CAM will provide leadership in the establishment of an Australian aerospace industry while value-adding to the country's titanium production.

Director of M-CAM, Professor Xinhua Wu, also heads the ARC Centre of Excellence for Design in Light Metals and is internationally respected in the field of advanced manufacturing.

"M-CAM is going to drive the development of a field that will have myriad economic and environmental benefits," Professor Wu said.

"We are making components more quickly and more cheaply whilst maintaining the same, if not better performance. This not only creates cost and time savings at the manufacturing stage, but will also enable new and innovative designs that reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Further, the massive material waste reduction in this type of manufacturing will extend the life of our mineral reserves."