Print your own medicine – a $9 million 3D printing research and development hub opens in Melbourne

While the web’s 3D printing community is flourishing, the giants of manufacturing industry will also have to jump on the 3D printing train to make this revolutionary technology a pillar of production. And in that light, we can report that a state-of-the art 3D printing research hub has just opened its doors in Melbourne, Australia.

L-R: The Hon Tony Smith MP, Professor Xinhua Wu and Monash President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardne

 It’s full name is the ARC Research Hub for Transforming Australia’s Manufacturing Industry through High Value Additive Manufacturing. While a terrible name to put on a business card, it does capture the essence and intentions of the hub: to boost and revolutionize Australia’s manufacturing industry by exploring and optimizing the practical applicability of 3D printing technology.

It’s based at Monash University in Melbourne, a university known for its giant student body (approximately 53,000) and it’s many research facilities. This new 3D printing hub is a joint collaboration of the Australian Research Council (ARC) and various industrial partners and universities. The long list of collaborators include Deakin University, the University of Queensland, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Safran-Microturbo SAS, Metallica Minerals Limited, A.W.Bell, Amaero Engineering Pty Ltd, International Seal Company (ISCA) Australia Pty Ltd, and Kinetic Engineering Services Pty Ltd.

Together, they will establish a team of experts and researchers from across the board of scientific and medical industries and laboratories, who will aim to develop new applications of 3D printing. It will also focus on training new 3D printing specialists ‘to keep up with demand for this burgeoning technology.’

The institute will be led by professor of Materials Engineering, Xinhua Wu. She’s an internationally recognised leader in the field of pioneering additive manufacturing technology, who has already worked with various illustrious industrial names such as Rolls Royce, Safran Group and Airbus. A brief interview with her can be seen at the bottom of the page. At the opening, she expressed her firm convictions in the revitalising potential 3D printing brings to manufacturing:

Aerospace, biomedical and automotive industries are just a few of the sectors that are looking for new and innovative techniques to produce high-performance, complex engineered components. Through this hub, researchers will work to resolve issues surrounding process optimisation to achieve all required mechanical properties in 3D printed metallic products that can be used commercially for flying or in the body. The aim is help boost Australia’s manufacturing industry by securing markets in high value sectors, such as aerospace and biomedical.

Of course, it will be some time before the fruits of this investment can be harvested, but expectations are already very high. Professor Aidan Byrne, of the Australian Research Council, explained that 3D printing could hold the key to efficient, affordable and environmentally-friendly production. ‘This can lead to components being made more efficiently, cost and time-wise, while achieving equivalent or better performance. Technological advances in additive manufacturing also bring significant environmental benefits, allowing the creation of more light-weight products which require reduced energy to produce, and a significant reduction in material waste.’

Could this mean that the industrial revolution of additive manufacturing will take place in the land down under? While only time can tell how this will play out, it is certainly part of this intentions behind this research hub. Byrne even went as far as saying that they’re aiming to ‘establish Australia a global leader’ in the field of additive manufacturing. It could thus be a good idea to keep an eye on them.

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