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RMIT University forms research collaboration to produce aircraft parts with laser metal deposition technology


By David Schwartz
Published: July 5th, 2018

Australia’s RMIT University has formed a research collaboration focused on using laser metal deposition technology to repair steel and titanium aircraft parts – a 3D printing process that is   expected to cut the cost of maintenance and spare part purchasing, scrap metal management, warehousing, and shipping costs in defense and aerospace markets.

The collaboration is with RUAG Australia – an aviation maintenance and repair firm — and the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), which is supported by the Australian government.

An RMIT research team led by Professor Milan Brandt using ‘laser metal deposition’ technology for building and repairing steel and titanium parts in the country’s defense fleet of aircraft. The process involves feeding metal powder into a laser beam, which is then scanned across a surface in order to add new material in a precise, web-like formation. Parts can be 3D printed from scratch, existing parts can be repaired with a bond that is as strong as, or possibly even stronger, than the original.  

“It’s basically a very high-tech welding process where we make or rebuild metal parts layer by layer,” Blandt explained.

RUAG Australia’s Neil Matthews, head of research and technology, said the technology could completely transform the concept of warehousing and transporting for defense and other industries. “This technology provides on the spot creation and repair as parts could just be built and repaired onsite whereas in the current process, replacement parts require storage before being transported where the parts are needed,” he said. “Instead of waiting for spare parts to arrive from a warehouse, an effective solution will now be on-site,” resulting in less downtime for repairs and “a dramatic increase in the availability and readiness of aircraft.”

IMCRC CEO and Managing Director David Chuter believes the technology can also be applied in other industries. “The project’s benefits to Australian industry are significant. Although the current project focuses on military aircraft, it is potentially transferable to civil aircraft, marine, rail, mining, oil and gas industries,” Chuter said. “In fact, this could potentially be applied in any industry where metal degradation or remanufacture of parts is an issue.”

Source: OpenGov

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