Cold spray metal 3D printing is coming to Singapore.
Singapore Polytechnic (SP) has been awarded a grant of almost S$250,000 (US $190,000) by the country’s National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC).
The funds will go towards a joint R&D program involving SP, NAMIC, and Australian 3D printer manufacturer SPEE3D. The additive manufacturing research will investigate how to 3D print metal faster, aiming to manufacturing parts 1,000 times quicker than conventional 3D printing technologies.
Combining gas atomization and cold spray technologies
The year-long research program combines metal powder production from SP’s Advanced Materials Technology Centre (AMTC), with Australian 3D printing company SPEE3D’s LightSPEE3D 3D printer.
AMTC produces customised metal powders using a gas atomization system. This process forces molten material through a nozzle using pressure from an inert gas. The pressure also disrupts the flow of the gas, forming metal droplets, which cool along the length of a tower to form a powder.
This, in turn, is used as feedstock in the LightSPEE3D 3D printer. The LightSPEE3D applies supersonic 3D deposition (SP3D) technology, a form of cold spray technology. Metal powder is fired through a nozzle on to a build plate attached to a robotic arm.
This arm moves along five axes to build a near-net shape part layer by layer, as the molten powder particles hit the substrate laden build plate (or solid particle layers) and rapidly cool. This process claims to 3D print metals 1000 times faster than existing technologies.
Australia’s SPEE3D are not the only enterprise investigating cold spray additive manufacturing. In 2013, we reported on how GE are using cold spray 3D printing and more recently looked at refinements to GE’s cold spray technology.
The LightSPEE3D metal 3D printer. Image via SPEE3D.
The first Polytechnic grant for metal 3D printing
This is the first translational R&D grant awarded to a Singapore Polytechnic in metal 3D printing, with the aim of making the technology faster and cheaper.
“We are delighted that SPEE3D has chosen Singapore as one of their key hubs for technology development, test-bedding, and market expansion,” said NAMIC Managing Director Dr. Ho Chaw Sing. Explaining the need for the R&D program, Chaw Sing added that
“The lack of manufacturing grade metal printing at production speeds, as well as the cost and quality of the metal powder feedstock are huge obstacles towards mass adoption of metal AM technologies.”
Dr. Rajnish Gupta, Director of Singapore Polytechnic’s Technology, Innovation & Enterprise department added that the partnership would “allow us to help position Singapore as a global Additive Manufacturing hub.”
Singapore Polytechnic campus. Photo via Singapore Polytechnic.
The first SPEE3D 3D printer in Asia
SPEE3D’s cold spray technology was invented by Steven Camilleri and Byron Kennedy (who contributed to 3D Printing Industry’s “The Future of 3D Printing” series), and the LightSPEE3D 3D printer found its first customer in Australia’s Charles Darwin University in 2017.
“Singapore is an ideal location to install the first LightSPEE3D printer in Asia,” said Byron Kennedy, now the CEO of SPEE3D. “Together with Singapore Polytechnic, ST Kinetics and NAMIC, we can showcase to the world how high-speed 3D printing can revolutionize manufacturing.”
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Featured image shows SPEE3D’s LightSPEE3D 3D printer. Photo via SPEE3D.