Australian engineers create world’s first 3D printed jet engine.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Forget trinkets and toys – 3D Printers have now entered into the realm of jet engines.
Yes, Australian engineers have created the world’s first ever 3D printed jet engine.
Their work has attracted the attention of Boeing, Airbus even the chief scientist of the US Air Force and the researchers expect it will lead to cheaper, more fuel-efficient jets.
Some even see it as a potential saviour for the manufacturing industry.
From the Australian Air Show in Avalon, here’s the ABC’s science reporter, Jake Sturmer.
(Sound of F18 jets flying overhead)
JAKE STURMER: The cutting edge of military technology is on display here at the air show.
But it’s Amaero Engineering’s tiny booth that’s gathering a large amount of attention.
AIR SHOW VISITOR: Oh, might want show my son that. He’ll be impressed.
JAKE STURMER: Amaero’s CEO, Dr Robert Hobbs, and researchers at Monash University have created the world’s first 3D printed jet engine.
In reality, the breakthrough opens the door for engineers to make and test parts in days instead of months.
(Question to Robert Hobbs) What does that mean in dollar terms? Is that cheaper engines? Is that more efficient engines?
ROBERT HOBBS: Yeah. Particularly- Well, both actually, but particularly more efficient engines because it allows them to go through the development cycle much more quickly.
JAKE STURMER: It all started two years ago when French aerospace giant Safran challenged the researchers to make a 3D printed version of one of their old jet engines.
They passed with flying colours, shaving weight off the turbines in the process.
They’re now working on top secret prototypes for Boeing, Airbus and defence contractor, Raytheon.
There are potentially massive deals on the table and it’s all made in a lab in the suburbs of Melbourne.
(Sound of 3D printer working)
The small garage-sized facility is home to the world’s largest printer of its kind.
Technically known as additive manufacturing, it uses a high powered laser to fuse powdered nickel, titanium or aluminium into the shape of objects.
Monash University’s Vice-Provost for Research, Professor Ian Smith, says the potential is virtually limitless.
IAN SMITH: It’s opened the door. We’re only scratching the tip of the iceberg. We’ve talked about how it can be useful in the aerospace industry, we see enormous applications in the biomedical industry.
For, for example, if you’re unfortunate enough to have one of those serious car accidents, you can be scanned in the scanner, that information can then be taken to a 3D printer and while you’re in the operating table we can print those precise body parts that you might need.
JAKE STURMER: Spare parts for people and potentially cars too – a chance to stave off a decline in manufacturing.
IAN SMITH: We’ve all heard the demise of the motor industry and that’s bad but I think the real impact has been the demise of the supply chain industry that supports that motor industry.
We would like to think that revolutionary disruptive technologies like this, can take the place of some of the more traditional industries, and we can build new industries or we can regenerate existing industries with these kinds of technologies.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The ABC’s science reporter Jake Sturmer speaking to Monash University’s Professor Ian Smith.