29/07/2021 - 12:42

Aurora Labs to test 3D printing tech on Navy frigates

29/07/2021 - 12:42

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Aurora Labs appears to have scored a major coup by entering into a collaboration agreement with Australian defence contractor, BAE Systems Maritime Australia to test its specialist 3D metal printing technology’s ability to “print” stainless steel components for the construction of Australian Navy frigates. The components to be tested are currently sourced via traditional manufacturing and wholesale channels.

Aurora Labs has entered a collaboration agreement to test its 3D printing technology to produce stainless steel parts for the Navy’s Hunter class frigates. Credit: File

Aurora Labs appears to have scored a major coup by entering into a collaboration agreement with Australian defence contractor, BAE Systems Maritime Australia to test its specialist 3D metal printing technology’s ability to “print” stainless steel components for the construction of Australian Navy frigates. The components to be tested are currently sourced via traditional manufacturing and wholesale channels.

BAE is responsible for the design and build of nine frigates for the Navy’s Hunter Class Frigate program, the largest surface ship project in the history of Australia’s defence force according to BAE.

BAE says the Hunter program is set to transform Australia’s shipbuilding industry by moving it towards a sovereign naval shipbuilding capability. Prototyping has already commenced with construction of the first frigate tabled for next year.

The multi-mission frigates are set to support anti-submarine warfare, air defence and general-purpose operations around the globe.

Aurora’s collaboration with BAE appears to be a key step in its efforts to commercialise its innovative 3D metal printing technology.

BAE’s research and technology arm is investigating the potential for the future adoption of large-scale 3D metal printing of spare parts and has recognised Aurora as a prospective supplier of ‘powder bed fusion’ laser technology for the Hunter program.

The duo has now agreed to initial test printing for the Hunter program’s staged evaluation of local 3D printing options and their benefits.

Aurora’s flagship RMP-1 prototype printer, utilising powder bed fusion technology, is central to the company’s ambitions of creating industrial grade, high productivity and high accuracy 3D metal printers to a stage where they compete with traditional metal manufacturing and wholesaling on a cost-effectiveness basis.

Aurora will now look to prove its technical and commercial acumen for the Hunter program by producing the 3D stainless steel printed parts for the ships. The company will review the design of the components and look to optimise the powder bed fusion process for maritime application.

Aurora Labs Chief Executive Officer Peter Snowsill said: “We are very pleased to be offered the chance to perform test printing for the Hunter Class Frigate Program. Technical validation of this kind is crucial to our commercialisation strategy and allows us to develop and position our technology to satisfy customer specifications.”

Aurora recently moved its Perth operations to a smaller, fit-for-purpose facility in the southern suburb of Canning Vale, helping it achieve cost savings and sharpen its focus on the RMP-1 printer’s 12-month technology pathway.

According to the company, the 1.5kW laser printing power it is targeting with its RMP-1 printer exceeds traditional powder bed fusion laser power levels by between 1.5 and 7.5 times. Its aim is to open the door to producing complex components at higher performance levels and cheaper cost.

The company says recent testing has achieved reliable printing at 1.5kW power whilst maintaining part integrity against industry quality standards. The testing also met the company’s other targets for qualification, namely increased power and production rate.

It is perhaps not surprising that a seafaring organization like the Royal Australian Navy would turn to 3D printing given its ability to produce spare parts on the spot whilst at sea.

Aurora’s foot in the door with the Australian navy who spend millions maintaining and renewing its fleet just might turn out to be a watershed moment for this small capped ASX listed company.

 

Is your ASX-listed company doing something interesting? Contact: matt.birney@businessnews.com.au

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