Aurora Labs Seeking Dramatic 3D Metal Printing Speeds

By on February 20th, 2018 in research

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 Aurora Labs' initial 3D metal printer
Aurora Labs’ initial 3D metal printer

Australia-based Aurora Labs has published their roadmap for ultra-fast 3D metal printing. 

The Perth-based company has made some noise in the 3D printing world with their rather inexpensive 3D metal printer that they’ve marketed to institutions for the past year. 

But as we found out recently, they have far bigger plans afoot. They intend on developing a very large 3D metal printer, capable of 3D printing one-tonne objects in less than 24 hours. If that sounds outrageous, it is. But apparently they believe they have found a way to make this actually happen.

That is indeed a very ambitious target, but can they get there? How can they hope to do this? 

Some of these questions are answered with their latest release, which details their roadmap: 

As you can see with the green check marks, they are proceeding through this sequence. Unfortunately the roadmap does not include dates, aside from a vague “10-11 months”, but given their progress thus far it may not be long at all until we see them succeed. 

The other item they release of great interest is videos of a proof of concept of their method for very rapid 3D printing. 

The videos, viewable on their site here and here, show a prototype system blasting the first layer of a 20mm cube, with and without powder. Please watch them, and you’ll see how quick this process is – and I have to tell you that they are apparently shown in real time, and are not sped up. One of them is virtually instantaneous.

What’s interesting to me is that the illumination seems to be almost simultaneous for the entire surface area. I’m not sure how they do this, but it apparently works. 

Even scarier, they describe this as “slow 3D printing”, because their process supposedly will scale up to far greater speeds. The speed in the video is apparently “only” 3kg of metal powder material per hour. That’s a decent speed. 

But to achieve their goals, they’ll have to improve the rate from 3kg to 42kg per hour, over ten times as much. The company seems quite confident that they will be able to achieve this, however. 

Their Managing Director, David Budge, explained further: 

Reaching the ability to print simple parts slowly is the latest of our outlined steps towards the development of our Large Format Technology. When we talk about printing simple parts slowly, this is equivalent to the same speed of other metal 3D- printers currently in the market, while printing complex parts rapidly is targeting speeds that are approximately 100 times faster than existing 3D-printers. We look forward to announcing the achievement of additional goals along the way as we advance the development, and ultimate commercialisation, of the technology.

Their plan appears to be to prove out the technology, and then build a new unit, one that’s improved over their initial equipment, that exhibits far faster print speeds. Once that’s done they will look at building a prototype of an industrial machine concept they call a “Medium Format Printer”. Presumably this will be close to the release unit. 

I’m very interested to see if they can achieve their goals, because if they do, they will then have a very fast 3D metal printer on the market that will compete very well with existing equipment options. 

Via Aurora Labs

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!