Xinhua Wu: Taking additive manufacturing to new heights
What happens after you invent the world’s first 3D-printed jet engine? For Professor Xinhua Wu, you find a partner who will take your work to the world.
“It was extraordinary,” she recalls. “When Monash first came to me, I put together a list of resources I needed that totaled millions of dollars – not to mention three senior colleagues who would be joining me from the UK. Monash said, ‘Sure’.”
A lab on demand
Xinhua started her research into additive manufacturing – or 3D printing – at the University of Birmingham in the UK, teaming up with aerospace industry heavyweights such as Rolls-Royce and the European Space Industry.
Upon coming to Monash University in Australia, she set up the Monash Centre for Additive Manufacturing (MCAM). “We didn’t have space for a laboratory on the main campus for all our equipment, so Monash helped me fund an external lab that was only 15 minutes’ walk away from the university.”
MCAM is now arguably the best additive manufacturing facility in the world, equipped with large-scale 3D printers which can print just about anything to a high level of quality and precision. The centre is also one of the main drawcards for significant funding, including the ARC’s Industrial Transformation Research Hubs scheme.
Today, Xinhua’s team has created a spin-out company Amaero Engineering, which has teamed up with Safran Power Units to print turbojet components in France. Xinhua attributes her success to the support she received from Monash along the way from funding and infrastructure, to daily administrative matters.
“A proposal I was working on was taking two to three months to put together,” says Xinhua. “Monash sent a colleague to work with me full time for a month to pull the document together. It was the reason we got the grant, I couldn’t have done it alone.”
As Xinhua and her team continue to find incredible new ways to apply additive manufacturing to industries, Monash remains a steadfast supporter, even matching the funding awarded by government and industry bodies.
Xinhua says, however, it’s not just about the money. “It’s the commitment. It’s showing that the work the researchers are doing here is important, that they care about it. To me, that relationship is so important.”