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CSIRO welcomes first ‘multi-metal’ 3D printer

written by Stephen Kuper | March 28, 2024

The CSIRO has officially commissioned a new multi-metal 3D printer in Melbourne as part of the iLAuNCH Trailblazer initiative set to make lighter, faster, and more robust aerospace components.

Located at CSIRO’s Lab22 facility, the new state-of-the-art Nikon SLM 280 will be able to print metals side by side in one continuous print, enabling the precision manufacture of more affordable aerospace components.

Dr Joni Sytsma, iLAuNCH Trailblazer chief technology officer, explained, “This capability is the first of its kind as a production machine in Australia, in fact, the southern hemisphere, and iLAuNCH is pleased to open up new manufacturing possibilities for locally made products.”

The cutting-edge technology is well suited to aerospace and space where high performance and lightweight materials are the fundamental drivers of the designs, giving engineers the design freedom to consolidate parts to reduce mass and cost, ultimately making strategic weight decisions where needed.


Sytsma added, “Australian companies manufacturing satellites and rockets now have a real advantage to optimise their designs and improve performance, all made with a reduced lead time right here in Melbourne. We anticipate that the additional capabilities of this technology can also bring forth novel super alloys that are capable of maintaining ultra-high strength at the ultra-high temperatures that hypersonic vehicles need to survive, with a view to hypersonic air travel in the future.”

The manufacturing costs associated with these complex geometries are very high when limited to conventional manufacturing processes, thus limiting the mass producibility of these components via traditional manufacturing processes.

For example, with rocket engines, typically liquid oxygen and fuel flow through the engine at an extremely high pressure, which are then injected into the combustion chamber. In particular, on the oxygen side, there needs to be significant protection of the metal surfaces against oxidative attacks of the metal.

Through the introduction of technology like this multi-metal printer, it will allow the oxidative resistant layer to be manufactured in one go with the structural metal speeding up production times and ultimately reducing the cost of the resultant structure.

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