3D Printing

Aiming for AMAZE-ing Metal 3D Printing

After the opening of its 3 month ‘3D Printing: the Future’ exhibition last week, today saw The London Science Museum host the launch of the AMAZE project, which according to the European Space Agency (ESA), will “take 3D printing into the metal age.” With the ESA involvement, it should come as not surprise to learn that this project is all about industrial metal 3D printing processes with a specific focus on further developing applications for ‘jet engines, spacecraft and fusion projects.’

There is a great deal of evidence that supports the existence of serious applications already in this industry sector — right across the globe. Boeing, GE, Airbus/EADS and Rolls-Royce are all heavy in on the R&D with millions of $ in time and equipment already invested in metal 3D printing. But what the AMAZE project is seeking to do, from its launch, is focus on collaboration and develop large scale production. Today’s launch brought together an international panel of experts from the ESA and the EU, together with industrial and educational partners — 28 in total, that include many of the aerospace companies and their academic partners that have already been working in this area for some time.

This is set to continue over the coming weeks and months in a bid to ultimately fulfil the remit of the AMAZE project, full name: “Additive Manufacturing Aiming Towards Zero Waste & Efficient Production of High-Tech Metal Products.” With factory sites being set up in France, Germany, Italy, Norway and the UK, the plan is to develop an industrial supply chain.

The project lead, Esa’s Franco Ongaro, has totally bought into some of the main advantages of 3D printing — the improved strength / reduced weight ratios, the material savings, and exploring the sustainability issues 3D printing can address, citing: “We need to clean up our act – the space industry needs to be more green. And this technique will help us.”

But my favourite quote from Mr Ongaro today was this: “To produce one kilo of metal, you use one kilo of metal – not 20 kilos.” While it may be a tad idealistic to think that’s what’s happening now, 3D printing will certainly go some way to enabling a reduction in waste.