Interview: Aurora Labs on bringing metal 3D printing to the masses

3D Printing Industry sat down with Nathan Henry, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Aurora Labs, to learn more about its new Rapid Manufacturing Technology (RMT) and its ability to compete within conventional manufacturing.  

At the forefront of metal 3D printing technology is Australia’s Aurora Labs, who is exhibiting its latest system, the large-format Alpha 3D printer.

3D Printing Industry: What has drawn Aurora Labs to make such significant investments in metal 3D printing?

Nathan Henry: Aurora Labs looks at metal 3D printing and sees two fundamental problems; the first is that it’s very expensive, which is a barrier for utilization, and the other is that it’s very slow. So, we’ve come up with two different solutions which is the prosumer unit  – the S-Titanium Pro which uses DMLM and DMLS technologies and is used commonly in R&D applications.

The Alpha 3D printer, which we’re calling the RMT, is not necessarily the successor the S-Titanium Pro. This is being developed with a focus on addressing the need to make things at a speed that makes it economic. This brings down the amortization costs and opens up a much wider market within additive manufacturing and makes it viable to compete with things like casting and subtractively manufactured parts with CNC.

The large format Alpha 3D printer which will be released on a smaller scale as the RMP1 later this year. Photo by Tia Vialva.
The large format Alpha 3D printer which will be released on a smaller scale as the RMP1 later this year. Photo by Tia Vialva.

3D Printing Industry: So, the recent tests of RMT for 3D printing complex parts demonstrates the competitive capabilities of your systems?

Nathan Henry: Well, as you saw, RMT is currently very high volume but the speed at which it prints [662g/h or 15.88 kg per day], for us it’s still too slow. Where expecting to at least double that speed in our smaller machine which is going to be the RMP1 and that is going to be 450 in diameter with a 450 bed. This will produce around 30 kilos an hour. It’s going to be in a different class.

We truly don’t see ourselves as a competitor to the rest of the companies here [at TCT], in some areas yes, but were actually competing with the metal manufacturing market – so again, casting and subtractive manufacturing, which has always been our aim.

3D Printing Industry: How else do you intend to compete with conventional manufacturers?

Nathan Henry: We know that to effectively do this, the other part of what we’re doing is certification. Certification is the key to utilization. If you don’t have certification all you have is an expensive paperweight. So, we’ve been working with DNV GL to set up a system where we can print a part, check what its doing as its printed, and then get out a part that requires minimal validation to be a certified component.

We’re not there yet, but we’re moving in that direction. Well be able to identify any flaws as its printed and either stop the print because there’ll be a layer by layer and accumulative tolerance. If it fails either of these our system will scrap the part. We’re customising that now and setting up the infrastructure within our developing closed machines.  

The first component printed using LFT. Photo via Aurora Labs.
The first component printed using RMT. Photo via Aurora Labs.

3D Printing Industry: Do you see yourself developing other powders in the future

Nathan Henry: We’ve developed a lab quantity of powders but we’re working on a commercial quantity of metal powders which we’re having some success with. All indications point to a spheroidized powder; hopefully we’ll be able to ramp that up at first to a tonne a day, but we’re aiming to reach 5 tonnes a day per machine.

3D Printing Industry: When will the RMP1 be commercially available?

Nathan Henry:The beta’s of the RMP1 will be done for around Christmas time this year, but it’s going to be very close. We’ve just proven the technology, which took longer than expected but now that that’s done as well as most of the mechanical work, it’s just the packaging to put it into its final form for our industry partners. They’ll be rolling out shortly after that.

It’s exciting as we really see it as the tipping point where people will be able to use AM for real manufacturing. Because it hasn’t really been used outside of extremely high value parts. And where hoping to shift that – which is why were making more powders as well. Because availability of more reasonably priced powders means that there will no longer be a need for stainless steel materials costing $45 dollars a kilo, when it should be $6-10 a kilo.

Our new machine and our developing materials will be competitive because of its flexibility and in the quality of the final part when compared to conventional manufacturing.

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Featured image shows the RMP1 metal additive manufacturing process. Clip via Aurora Labs.