A full-size 3D-printed merino sheep to be used in a scoping study into robotic sheep shearing is one of the projects involving the technology at a new facility.

The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has opened Australia's most advanced 3D printing facility.

ProtoSpace was launched to help grow advanced manufacturing in Australia by providing access to high-end equipment and expertise in 3D printing technology.

ProtoSpace is an 'open space' for collaboration with business of all sizes and from all sectors, with a focus on SMEs and start-ups.

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It features cutting-edge 3D printers unique in Australia, including the exclusive Nanodimension Dragonfly which is a one-stop shop for 3D printed electronics.

Director of ProtoSpace Hervé Harvard says that UTS is a young and progressive university making a significant investment in technology, ideation, research, teaching and learning to support Australian innovation.

"With some of the most advanced printers in the world, linked with academic expertise in using and extending 3D printing technology, ProtoSpace is delivering a unique resource to help achieve innovative Australian ideas," he said.

Photo / File
Photo / File

3D printing is still less than 1 per cent of global manufacturing so there is huge potential for growth.

Harvard says many businesses and individuals with ideas are still unsure how they can harness the technology to innovate, and to remain relevant.

3D printing has clear benefits for:

• New product development – proof-of-concept and rapid prototyping.
• Time to market - rapid design and production of complex products.
• Reduced waste - using least amount to get the job done.
• New product opportunities – adopting new materials, design and production.

It supports business models such as customer-led design processes and just-in-time production for both functional prototypes and direct part production.

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"This technology enables new capability such as manufacturing highly complex parts and the ability to engage through co-creation and mass-customisation," said Harvard.

ProtoSpace not only provides access to state of the art equipment and technology but can assemble multi-skilled teams from across the university with expertise in 3D printing technologies, research and development, software, design and engineering.

"We welcome the opportunity to work with people with ideas," said Harvard.

"What is different about ProtoSpace is that we want to explore with them how 3D printing can add value to their businesses; this is an extremely fast growing manufacturing sector globally but we have just begun to scratch the surface of what it can do."

Following commission and installation, projects underway during the pilot phase include industry partners, UTS researchers and students:

• an industry partnership with a mining company to examine the use of composite polymer in mining equipment manufacture.
• supporting research for a scoping study of robotic sheep shearing using a full size 3D printed merino sheep.
• developing the next cohort of 3d print specialists including a student project creating customised ankle-foot orthoses for children with cerebral palsy.

'We are working with all major 3D printer makers including Victorian award winner Spee3d, are looking to create a large 3D printer for the on-site manufacture of mining parts, and to expand our own 3D printing technology expertise," said Harvard.

ProtoSpace is a purpose built underground area at the UTS Broadway campus; as metal 3D printers are procured, they will be located at UTS TechLab, an extensive facility for research and teasing which opened in 2018 in Botany.

Find out more about Protospace at the University of Technology Sydney's (UTS) wesbite.