Australian company Titomic has unveiled what it claims is the world’s largest metal 3D printer at its fully automated Melbourne facility. Utilizing a patented process co-developed with Australian federal scientific research agency the CSIRO, the 3D metal printer boasts a build area 9 m long, 3 m wide and 1.5 m high (29.5 x 9.8 x 4.9 ft), however the printing process isn’t constrained to this booth size, meaning it could be used to print even larger objects.
The unit prints layer by layer like existing 3D printers, but rather than relying on metal powders that are fused using extreme heat, the Titomic Kinetic Fusion process involves a robot arm spraying titanium powder particles onto a scaffold at supersonic speeds of around 1 km per second – so fast that when they collide they mechanically fuse solid.
The machine doesn’t require gas shielding and results in a reduction in material waste compared to traditional manufacturing techniques. And because it uses kinetic energy rather than thermal energy, there is also no risk of heat deformation to the pieces it produces. It’s basically the same as cold-spray techniques used to coat existing metal components to protect them from corrosion that have been widely used for years.
The company is already using the technology to produce seamless titanium bicycle frames on a smaller machine at the rate of one every 30 minutes. Its bigger brother, which has an overall footprint of 40 x 20 m (131 x 66 ft) and can deposit 45 kg (99 lb) of material per hour, is much faster than other, smaller metal 3D printers that generally have build speeds of around 1 kg (2.2 lb) per 24 hours, according to Titomic CEO Jeff Lang.