RMIT University student’s metal AM tools win top innovation prize

RMIT University student's metal AM tools win top innovation prize

Jimmy Toton, winner of the 2019 Young Defence Innovator Award, inspects a steel milling cutter produced by metal Additive Manufacturing (Courtesy RMIT University)


Jimmy Toton, a PhD candidate at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, has received the 2019 Young Defence Innovator Award and an AU$15,000 prize at the Australian International Airshow and Aerospace & Defence Exposition (Avalon 2019), which ran from February 26–March 3 at Avalon Airport, Geelong, Victoria, Australia.

The prize was awarded for Toton’s development of metal additively manufactured steel tools with the ability to cut titanium alloys as well as, or better than, conventional steel tools. The project was conducted in collaboration with Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC) and industry partner Sutton Tools.

Because the metals used in defence and aerospace are so strong, the production of high-quality tools to cut them can be expensive and poses a major challenge. This project, conducted out of RMIT’s Advanced Manufacturing Precinct, is believed to be the first convincing demonstration of effective steel tools produced by metal Additive Manufacturing.

“Now that we’ve shown what’s possible, the full potential of 3D printing can start being applied to this industry, where it could improve productivity and tool life while reducing cost,” Toton commented. The high-performance steel milling cutters produced by the project team were made using Laser Metal Deposition (LMD) technology, which works by feeding metal powder into a laser beam.

Toton stated that his team had overcome significant challenges in additively manufacturing with layers to form strong, crack-free parts as he took his initial concept through to development. He is now working towards establishing print-to-order capability for Australia’s advanced manufacturing supply chains. “Manufacturers need to take full advantage of these new opportunities to become or remain competitive, especially in cases where manufacturing costs are high,” he stated. “There is real opportunity now to be leading with this technology.”

Dr Mark Hodge, DMTC Chief Executive Officer, added that the importance of productivity and cost-efficiency to Australian manufacturers should not be underestimated. “Supply chain innovations and advances like improved tooling capability all add up to meeting performance benchmarks and positioning Australian companies to win work in local and global supply chains,” he explained.

“The costs of drills, milling cutters and other tooling over the life of major defence equipment contracts can run into the tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars. This project opens the way to making these high-performing tools cheaper and faster, here in Australia.”

“This project exemplifies the ethos of capability-building through industrial applied research, rather than just focusing on excellent research for its own sake,” stated Dr Steve Dowey, Sutton Tools Technology Manager, while Prof Milan Brandt, RMIT’s Advanced Manufacturing Precinct Director and Toton’s supervisor, added that, “Additive technology is rising globally and Jimmy’s project highlights a market where it can be applied to precisely because of the benefits that this technology offers over conventional manufacturing methods.”

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