RMIT 3D steel printing research wins at Endeavour Awards

Industry-led research to 3D print steel tools has won the Endeavour Award for best technology application.

PhD student Jimmy Toton’s prize-winning collaboration with DMTC and Sutton Tools is the first convincing demonstration of 3D printed steel tools that are able to cut titanium as well as, or even better than, conventional steel tools.

“It has been a humbling experience being recognized by my peers in the manufacturing and R&D industry for my work,” Toton said.

“The award fuels my ambition to continue to develop additive manufacturing technology for tooling applications.”

Because the metals used in defence and aerospace industries are so strong, making high quality tools to cut them is a major, and expensive, challenge.

“We’ve now shown how 3D printing can be applied in this industry to improve productivity and tool life while reducing cost,” Toton said.

The team’s high-performance steel milling cutters were made using Laser Metal Deposition 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.

The same project also won a top innovation prize at this year’s Australian International Airshow.

Sutton Tools Technology Manager, Dr Steve Dowey, said having Toton working closely with them as an engineering intern during his research was crucial in ensuring industry-relevant outcomes.

“This project exemplifies the ethos of capability-building through industrial applied research, rather than just focusing on excellent research for its own sake,” Dowey said.

Meanwhile, RMIT’s Advanced Manufacturing Precinct (AMP), where Toton’s research is conducted, was an Endeavour Award finalist for excellence in manufacturing skills development.

AMP Technical Director and Toton’s supervisor, Professor Milan Brandt, said the $35 million facility, now in its eight year of operation, was among Australia’s best for advanced manufacturing research and skills development.

“This facility underpins our expertise in additive manufacturing and helps our partners create bespoke solutions – new products, processes or business models – that give them the edge,” Brandt said.

Growing interest in these opportunities is reflected in the AMP’s annual additive manufacturing research income passing $4 million in 2019.

The AMP hosts collaborative research with more than 40 companies including Ford, Siemens and Boeing – as well as many smaller enterprises – and hosts dozens of international delegations each year.

The Endeavour Awards night held during National Manufacturing Week is widely regarded as the premier awards program within the Australian manufacturing industry.