The Australian Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne, has officially opened the A$6 million CSIRO1 Innovation Centre – called Lab 22 – which provides affordable access to metal additive manufacturing (3D printing) technologies.

‘Manufacturing remains a key driver in our economy,’ the Minister said, ‘but as the industrial landscape changes, the sector needs to transition to more innovative and economically viable technology.’

Additive manufacturing has many advantages: it reduces waste, cuts labour costs, speeds up the development and test phase, and allows for product customisation and the ability to make complex metal parts.

‘Emerging technologies such as metal 3D printing offer huge productivity gains and have the potential to turn Australia’s manufacturing industry on its head,’ said Mr Pyne, adding that the new centre will enable manufacturers to innovate with less capital investment risk – ‘one of the major barriers in adopting 3D metal printing’.

CSIRO’s additive manufacturing research leader, Alex Kingsbury, said that the equipment used in the Lab 22 Innovation Centre is in the range of A$1 million per unit, but that ‘the vast majority of small and medium-sized business (SMEs) don’t have that amount of capital on-hand to take a leap of faith on a new or emerging technology’.

She said that while it is critical for companies to be able to take advantage of new technology and development if they are to remain internationally competitive ‘investment can be risky and expensive and the technical aspects are complicated’.

The new centre, located in Melbourne’s Clayton, is providing Australian companies with a unique opportunity to access some of the most advanced additive manufacturing equipment, Ms Kingsbury said, along with the help of experienced technical experts.

CSIRO is partnering with industry on this new technology and has already notched up a range of ‘world-firsts’ using its Arcam 3D printer. These include a titanium heel bone implant which was created to treat a cancer patient, a customised ‘orthotic’ for horses suffering from laminitis, rib implants, and a mouthguard for treating sleep apnoea.

CSIRO’s Lab 22 additive manufacturing equipment includes: Arcam A1, Concept Laser M2, Optomec LENS MR-7, Voxelject VX1000 and Cold Spray Plasma Giken.

1 CSIRO – the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation – is Australia’s national science agency.