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Space Trailblazer to 3D print satellites and hypersonic structures

The first iLAuNCH Trailblazer project is under way to establish an advanced manufacturing facility in Adselaide that will design and deliver stronger more durable satellite and hypersonic vehicle structures using Additive Manufacturing (AM).

Additive manufacturing, the process of creating an object by building it one layer at a time has disrupted the traditional manufacturing world, where subtractive manufacturing, created by cutting away at a solid block of material until the final product is complete was once the norm.

Partners in this iLAuNCH Trailblazer program includes the Future Industries Institute at the University of South Australia (UniSA) and Adelaide-based advanced manufacturer VPG Innovation.

The technology behind this new endeavour will use additive manufacturing through Electron Beam Melting (EBM) of metals. The EBM technique ensures almost all of the energy put into creating the electron beam goes into melting the metallic dust. This is extremely important as the dust is high temperature material such as titanium and nickel dust which melt at very high temperatures or can become brittle.

“This partnership reflects our commitment to fostering innovation and cultivating sovereign capability on a national level,” said Al Jawhari, Group CEO and Co-founder of Stärke-AMG, the parent company of VPG Innovation.

“This important project is well underway in one of our key focus areas – additive manufacturing,” said iLAuNCH Trailblazer Executive Director, Darin Lovett. “Increasing the availability of custom structures, which are space-ready, will support the growing space sector.

“The partnership will also support a world-class Australian sovereign manufacturing capability that will create new jobs, alongside a highly trained workforce, leading to global exports within the space industry and other markets.”

The facility will be located near space sector businesses in Adelaide and will support the industry with rapid 3D printing of metals for space structures.

“The iLAuNCH hub is dedicated to building the space engineering capability of Australian Manufacturing. This project, the first to kick off for the space trailblazer program, will deliver additive manufacturing, at scale to Australia,” said University of South Australia’s Industry Professor Colin Hall.

The EBM process takes place in a vacuum, allowing for a high temperature in a non-oxygenated environment, which relieves internal stresses and results in more resilient, flexible parts. VPG Innovation serves as an essential partner within the Stärke-AMG group, a collaborative group encompassing eight companies with operational facilities in Australia and the USA. Specifically designated as the engineering and prototyping arm of the group, VPG Innovation plays a crucial role in the design-for-manufacture process.

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