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3D metal printer takes off with Boeing deal

Business

Northern suburbs advanced manufacturing company AML3D has begun working on a 150kg 3D printed tooling part after winning a contract with global aerospace giant Boeing.

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Although the contract for the single part, announced to the ASX yesterday, is worth less than $50,000, the company is hopeful it will lead to future work with Boeing and the aeronautics industry more broadly.

The Edinburgh Park-based manufacturer is ramping up production of its 3D printing and robotic welding units to fuel increasing global demand.

The company is also growing its contract manufacturing in Adelaide as customers from around the world utilise the technology to produce tools and components for the marine, defence and mining industries.

Its newly launched Arcemy 3D printing units will be used to print the mandrel tooling part for Boeing, which is made from ‘Invar-36’, an alloy composed of 64 per cent iron and 36 per cent nickel. Invar-36 is known for its ability to maintain a near-zero expansion rate at high temperatures.

AML3D managing director Andy Sales said traditionally a part such as this could take six to 12 months to produce but his company would 3D print part the part in a matter of days.

“We’re actually all set up and ready to go for it and it will only take a couple of days until we’ve got it finished,” he told InDaily.

“We’ve been in touch with them for probably three years now on and off so hopefully it will be the start of a journey for us with them.

“It’s fantastic for us.”

The market agreed, pushing AML3D’s share price up more than 13 per cent yesterday to close at 20.5 cents per share.

Boeing and AML3D have been in discussions since March 2018 and two smaller parts – weighing about 20kg and 50kg – were produced before the coronavirus pandemic stalled the collaboration.

The 150kg part, which is almost a metre long, will be shipped to a Boeing tooling crew in Seattle for assessment once complete.

“We’ve got a deadline to meet and I imagine it won’t only be the piece itself that gets assessed but it will be the way that we liaise with them, our reaction times, our delivery times, our quality of product, service and documentation because these companies tend to assess you as a whole,” Sales said.

“They’ve got the aim of introducing additive and basically it’s the speed of manufacturing it can bring to their supply chain.

“They’re looking for suppliers but the good thing for us is that we’ve only got a couple of competitors globally so we are in a pretty good space.”

Sales formed AML3D in 2014 and the company listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in April 2020.

Last month, the company was granted an Australian patent for its market-leading Wire Additive Manufacturing (WAM) process.

The patent provides coverage over the method and apparatus for manufacturing 3D metal parts.

“The wire (for the Invar-36 tool) comes as a FeNi36 wire so it’s already made but it’s a molten process that then cools to a solid, so the trick is to get the right microstructure as it cools and that’s when our process comes in to give them the right co-efficient of thermal expansion and that’s what they’ll be assessing,” Sales said.

“When you start going to very large tooling products and moulds that are up to 30 metres long that they use for their polymer curing processes what it means is that it won’t expand hardly at all at high temperatures and it will actually keep the part’s accuracy in place.

“That aerospace tooling market is absolutely huge and we believe they’ve got a fairly strong desire for additive manufacturing so going forward we’re reasonably confident there will be something significant coming out of this in the next couple of years.”

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