RMIT PhD candidate Jimmy Toton has won two awards for his 3D printed, titanium-cutting steel tools.
Toton has won the 2019 Young Defence Innovator Award and $15,000 prize at the Avalon International Airshow for his efforts.
The invention – which was ranked highly by the Defence Materials Technology Center (DMTC) and its industry partner, Sutton Tools – could potentially save time and money for aerospace and defense manufacturers.
Metals used in defense and aerospace applications are so strong that making high-quality tools to cut them remain a major challenge – not to forget the mounting expenses involved.
Toton’s project is the first convincing demonstration of 3D printed steel tools that can cut titanium alloys as well as, or in some cases better than, conventional steel tools.
“Now that we’ve shown what’s possible, the full potential of 3D printing can start being applied to this industry, where it could improve productivity and tool life while reducing cost,” says Toton.
The team’s high-performance steel milling cutters were made using Laser Metal Deposition (LMD) technology, which works by feeding metal powder into a laser beam.
As the laser moves and the metal solidifies at the trailing edge, a 3D object is built layer by layer.
This additive manufacturing process also allows for objects to be built with complex internal and external structures.
Toton overcame significant challenges in getting the layers to ‘print’ to form strong, crack-free parts as he took this from initial concept through to development.
Talking about the project’s importance to Australian manufacturers, DMTC CEO Dr Mark Hodge said: “Supply chain innovations and advances like improved tooling capability all add up to meeting performance benchmarks and positioning Australian companies to win work in local and global supply chains.”
“The costs of drills, milling cutters and other tooling over the life of major Defence equipment contracts can run into the tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars. This project opens the way to making these high-performing tools cheaper and faster, here in Australia.”
Image and content: RMIT