The prestigious award, which comes with a $15,000 prize, was awarded for research the PhD student has conducted at RMIT’s Advanced Manufacturing Precinct with industry partner Sutton Tools in collaboration with the Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC).
Jimmy’s research was the first convincing demonstration of additively manufactured steel tools that can machine titanium alloys equal to and greater than their conventionally manufactured steel counterparts – which offers immense opportunities for the aeronautics and defence industries. As he says, “The full potential of 3D printing can start to be applied to the tool manufacturing industry.”
The high-performance steel milling cutters were made using Laser Metal Deposition technology, which works by feeding metal powder into a melt pool generated by a laser beam. As the laser moves the melt pool moves and the metal solidifies at the trailing edge forming a single track. This process is repeated track-by-track then layer-by-layer forming a 3D component. This layer-by-layer process is what allows complex internal and external designs to be fabricated.
Jimmy says that the benefit of using 3D printing to create cutting tools is that you can customise the internal design of the tools, not just shape them from the outside. “We are able to optimise internal through-coolant channels so that tools can be run faster and longer. This has the potential to significantly improve productivity and tool life – which will reduce manufacturing lead times and costs for manufacturers cutting ultra-high strength steels and titanium and nickel alloys.”
Jimmy did his BSc in Physics, starting to focus on materials science and metal cutting theory towards the end of his degree. He began working with Sutton Tools as an intern, then as an R&D Test engineer while studying for a Masters in Applied Sciences under Emeritus Professor Ed Doyle. Sutton Tools’ Technical Manager, Dr Steve Dowey, acted as Jimmy’s secondary supervisor.
Currently a Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering PhD Candidate at RMIT University with the support of DMTC, Jimmy says his research is still ‘blue sky’ but that he’d like to establish a print-to-order capability for Australia’s advanced manufacturing supply chains. “There’s a couple of years work needed. The geometric complexity necessary for manufacturing complex, through-coolant cutting tools is not possible using LMD but, in the future, we can look at transferring the 3D printing knowledge we’ve developed from laser metal deposition to powder bed fusion.”
Powder Bed Fusion (PBF) has significantly wider fabricable design capability which can be used to manufacture near-net-shape custom cutting tools with optimised through-coolant channels which cannot be fabricated using any other existing production technology.
Dr Mark Hodge, Chief Executive Officer of DMTC says that working with Sutton Tools under the DMTC model during Jimmy’s research was crucial in ensuring industry-relevant outcomes. “It is also a strategic investment in bringing the best of industrial and research expertise together, in Australia, and ensuring the Intellectual Property and industrial expertise remains here.”
For more information on Jimmy’s research, read this article from the RMIT University website and download DMTC’s press release.
Photo Credit: www.rmit.edu.au
About the Author
Peter Sutton is a fourth generation member of the Sutton Family with over 25 years’ experience in engineering and manufacturing. During his time at Sutton, Peter has held a number of roles starting in Quality Assurance, then Factory Supervision, Logistics and Operations Management and onto his current role as Managing Director.Back