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GE and University of Sydney Launch Research Hub to Drive 3D Printing Innovation

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In 2020, the University of Sydney (USYD) and GE subsidiary GE Additive announced the launch of a high-tech manufacturing hub on campus to establish capabilities and training in metal additive manufacturing (AM) and the incubation of small to medium manufacturing startups. The $25 million center, located at the Engineering precinct of the USYD’s Darlington campus, was finally inaugurated on December 6, 2021.

According to the university, the new Sydney Manufacturing Hub puts the city at the heart of Industry 5.0–bringing personalization and the human touch back to manufacturing. Geared to provide capabilities for design, topological optimization, 3D printing of metals, ceramics, and polymers, as well as post-processing heat treatment, advanced characterization, and more, the hub will pave the way for new technologies in a wide range of industries, including aerospace, autonomous vehicles, biotech, defense, maritime transport, and robotics.

Equipped with GE Additive’s metal printers MLab 200R, M2 Dual laser, and electron beam melting (EBM) technologies Spectra H and A2X, the center supports the New South Wales (NSW) Government’s projects at Western Sydney Aerotropolis (an 11,200-hectare area surrounding the Western Sydney International Airport) and Western Sydney parklands. By working alongside the industry to deliver cutting-edge AM R&D and materials processing, the new manufacturing-focused research facility will drive innovation and foster industrial output.

With GE in particular, the university will collaborate on materials development through experimental work performed at the new site. Aside from using GE Additive metal printers, the hub will serve as a technology demonstration center for the firm across Australia and New Zealand and host workshops, training, and collaboration sessions for the industry.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark Scott and Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson with Australian minister Stuart Ayres at the launch of the Sydney Manufacturing Hub.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark Scott and Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson with Australian minister Stuart Ayres at the launch of the Sydney Manufacturing Hub. Image courtesy of Bill Green/University of Sydney.

Geared to enable concept-to-production demonstration capabilities, including advanced pre- and post-processing of materials for faculty, students, small and medium-sized companies, the hub will also cater to larger companies, if needed, to experience and leverage metal 3D printing and advanced manufacturing––often for the first time.

Speaking at the launch, Australia’s Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney and Minister for Trade and Industry Stuart Ayres said advanced manufacturing technologies, like AM, are changing the opportunity paradigm for Australians. In fact, it accounts for half of Australia’s manufacturing output, estimated to reach $131 billion by 2026, and is one of the fastest-growing export sectors.

Now that the Sydney Manufacturing Hub is open for business, it will engage with industry across the NSW, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), where there is a significant opportunity for new high-skilled jobs. Discussing the region’s growth potential in this segment, GE Australia’s “Country Leader” (a restructured term for CEO) Sam Maresh said SMEs account for most advanced manufacturing operators in Australia and are a priority for the hub.

“This facility will support the collaboration of industry and researchers and is set to become a commercialisation hub for new products and innovations across a range of advanced manufacturing industries. NSW is positioning itself at the centre of additive manufacturing capability and research within the Asia-Pacific region and the Sydney Manufacturing Hub is a significant step towards achieving that ambition,” highlighted Maresh.

The research facility places Sydney at the center of new skills-based development and puts the gears in motion for the state’s advanced Industry 5.0 output. It will provide specialized consulting, fabrication activation, and training to its industrial partners, providing both guided and autonomous access to the facilities for testing, research, and fabrication.

Aside from GE technology, the site will be home to a suite of AM systems, including Lithoz ceramic printer Cerafab 7500 and five polymer platforms from UK 3D printing firms Noztek and Creat3D; US manufacturers 3D Platform and Lulzbot, and Prusa. For 3D printing design, the hub has acquired a host of software systems, including Materialise Magics and Solidworks’ 3D printing CAD. But that’s not all; the center’s highly qualified staff will work with characterization tools, pre- and post-fabrication capabilities, and heat treatment and melt processing machines.

The launch of the Sydney Manufacturing Hub

The launch of the Sydney Manufacturing Hub. Image courtesy of Bill Green/University of Sydney.

Situated in an outstanding new bespoke facility, the hub “is making the previously impossible possible,” according to Simon Ringer, Director of the University of Sydney’s Core Research Facilities and professor at the Faculty of Engineering. In a 2020 interview, he suggested that “the time is ripe for investment in advanced manufacturing to spur Australia’s economy.”

Driving innovation, sustainability and manufacturing is just what the hub is all about. Ringer points to key industries that will benefit from these technologies by reducing material waste, simplified supply chains, and an independent capacity to create materials, components, and even whole machines – all of which weren’t possible using traditional manufacturing. As part of its launch, the facility is now open to developing tailored projects for interested companies.

“Using these technologies we could soon see Australian design and built space rocket engines, hypersonic vehicles, satellites, eco-active building and construction, and fast tracking of the electrification revolution in propulsion,” remarked Ringer. “It will even be transformative for areas like health – our team have recently leveraged additive manufacturing in the production of custom orthopaedic implants to help with patient-specific needs.”

Furthermore, Ringer says “we are witnessing a dramatic disruption in how materials are made that’s driving research breakthroughs. On one hand, we are looking at the periodic table with fresh eyes – additive manufacturing lets us combine elements to make new materials with entirely new combinations of properties at scale. On the other hand, additive and advanced manufacturing has made manufacturing more accessible, with digital workflows making it easier for local companies to enter competitive global markets.”

Advanced manufacturing facilities have been springing up in Australia during the last couple of years. In 2020, the NSW Government released the first glimpse of a 13,000 square meter advanced manufacturing research facility (the AMRF) in Western Sydney. Similarly, the city of Queensland boasts at least five thriving regional cutting-edge manufacturing hubs. Now the University of Sydney has the chance to demonstrate its capability as an R&D leader in the region by working closely with both the public and private sector on high-impact technologies, becoming an industrial incubator, underpinning rapid advances in manufacturing and developing world-leading skills for Australia.

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