I think we can all agree that 3D printing technology is pretty cool, and while it can certainly be used to make fun things like Stormtrooper statues and holiday models and decorations, the technology is also completely changing the face of manufacturing. Metal 3D printing has been used to manufacture everything from surgical tools and aerospace turbines to race cars and spacecraft components, but research shows that even though it’s widely used in multiple sectors, adoption is still slow, due to a lack of in-house expertise and high costs. But this is not the case for Australian tech startup AML Technologies – the company certainly has the expertise, and thanks to a recent grant from the Australian Government, cost shouldn’t be an issue either.
AML Technologies, which is located in Tranmere in the Australian electorate of Sturt, actually stands for Additive Metal Layering Technologies (AMLTEC), and focuses on the growing industry of Wire-Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAM), which uses materials like aluminum, nickel alloys, stainless steel, and titanium, and disrupts conventional subtractive metal technologies; RAMLAB and 3D Metalforge have both used hybrid processes of this technology.
The company’s mission statement says it all: “To be at the forefront of WAM research and development with a heavy focus on commercializing parts, components & products for use in all industries.”
Due to its use of WAM welding techniques, which can be used to create medium and large high-integrity metal parts efficiently, quickly, and cost-effectively, the company works in large-scale metallic 3D printing, and Managing Director Andy Sales believes that additive manufacturing, and the arc welding process, “could fundamentally change” how parts are manufactured.
“3-D printing with metal is sort of disrupting casting and forging technology…it is additive manufacturing. This technology has the opportunity to save immense lead times. It means the product won’t take months, but days if not hours,” Sales said.
“With a robot and table big enough, you can build something as big as a car.”
WAM brings together robotics, welding, and CAD software design: it combines an electric arc as a heat source with wire as feedstock to fabricate free-form parts, and its integration with programmed welding robots that are able to be re-positioned takes away the typical 3D printer size restrictions. The robot uses 3D CAD to manufacture parts to a near-net shape, which is later machine-finished.
Sales, an alumnus of Marlborough Boys’ College in New Zealand who began his career in engineering and welding over two decades ago, founded AML Technologies three years ago, to stay on top of the growing metal 3D printing movement.
Sales said, “Performing welding techniques for 3-D printing is a new and unique field, so this is what drives me, to do something different with welding than what is normally done or expected.”
By utilizing the WAM process this way, the current methods of metal parts manufacturing, like machining, forging, and casting, are being disrupted. These methods are expensive, can take a long time, and produce a lot of scrap material when everything is said and done, but the WAM process reduces material waste by up to 80% and manufacturing time by 75%; both of these combine to reduce costs as well.
The Australian Government recently awarded AML Technologies $500,000 as part of the country’s Entrepreneurs Accelerating Commercialisation grant, which offers monetary support to businesses, entrepreneurs, and researchers so they’re able to address challenges on their way to market.
In a media release, the Hon. Christopher Pyne, Federal Member for Sturt, Minister for Defence Industry, and Leader of the House, said, “AML Technologies has been awarded this money from the Turnbull Government to help establish a contract bureau for large scale 3D metal printing. It’s great that they will be supported to undertake commercialisation activities to prove the viability of this great idea. Innovation is central to the government’s plan to grow the Australian economy and I’m very pleased that AML Technologies will be assisted to navigate what is often a challenging stage of product development.”
AML Technologies is just one of 24 businesses in Australia that will benefit from $11.2 million worth of commercialization grants offered under the program; Sales says that his company’s funding, which is recognition of its new products, services, and processes, will be “spent on progressing the technology to a commercial status.”
“Being awarded the grant also validates our business plan immensely and provides confidence in the market place and for our small numbers of investors,” Sales said.
The investor commitment and grant from the government will offer AML Technologies the advice and financial support it needs to take the company to the next level of metal additive manufacturing. Discuss in the AML Technologies forum at 3DPB.com.[Source/Images: Stuff.co]