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PhD candidate from Australia 3D prints steel tool that can cut through titanium

Published on March 4, 2019 by Carlota V.
steel tool

A PhD student from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia developed a 3D printed steel tool that is capable of cutting titanium alloys. Apparently, it will also be capable of cutting through traditionally manufactured steel tools. Though such a small tool, this achievement could pave the way for increased applications of 3D printing in tool production.

As a result, PhD candidate Jimmy Toton won the 2019 Young Defence Innovator Award and $15,000 prize at the Avalon International Airshow. The project of his research was conducted with the Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC) and industry partner Sutton Tools at RMIT’s Advanced Manufacturing Precinct.

steel tool

Jimmy Toton inspects 3D printed steel milling cutter; Photo: RMIT University

The steel milling cutters were produced using Laser Metal Deposition technology. In other words, the technology uses a system in which metallic powders are blown through a deposition nozzle and heated with a laser beam to form a metallic bead deposited layer by layer. The technology is also known as directed energy deposition (DED).

Industry Applications

Jimmy Toton comments, “Now that we’ve shown what’s possible, the full potential of 3D printing can start being applied to this industry, where it could improve productivity and tool life while reducing cost. Manufacturers need to take full advantage of these new opportunities to become or remain competitive, especially in cases where manufacturing costs are high. There is real opportunity now to be leading with this technology”.

One of the challenges, the team explains, was getting the layers to print and bond strongly to avoid cracks in the end piece. Those challenges were overcome as the 3D printed tool demonstrated its titanium cutting performance against more traditional tools. The project focused on having an impact on industrial applications, not just focusing on excellent research for its own sake.

Dr. Mark Hodge, CEO at Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC), said “Supply chain innovations and advances like improved tooling capability all add up to meeting performance benchmarks and positioning Australian companies to win work in local and global supply chains. The costs of drills, milling cutters and other tooling over the life of major Defence equipment contracts can run into the tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars. This project opens the way to making these high-performing tools cheaper and faster, here in Australia”.

Find out more information HERE.

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