UTS has opened a new state-of-the-art facility in Sydney which is says will push the boundaries of 3D printing.
Featuring a range of high-end printers, the UTS ProtoSpace provides a unique environment for innovation, research and development in 3D printing technologies.
ProtoSpace, spanning 900 sqm, is buried below ground in the UTS Sydney complex across the hallway from the university’s Super Lab.
Led by the Faculty of Engineering and IT, it’s a collaborative space that will be open to industry and external partners, as well as UTS staff, students and researchers.
ProtoSpace offers new opportunities for cutting edge applications of 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, the university says.
“It’s very unique in the region, and even internationally, purely because of the scope of the machines that have been brought together,” says ProtoSpace manager Jon O’Neill.
“Because we have such a range of high-end printers we can really drive different uses of 3D printing. We can introduce new ways of producing things and come up with new options for making parts and components,” O’Neill says.
The ProtoSpace set-up allows ideas to be trialled and refined, for possible commercial manufacturing or bespoke applications.
Innovations that emerge from a lab of this calibre have real-world uses across a range of industries, from medicine to manufacturing, engineering and design to architecture.
“We currently have an industry project linked to mining, where we’re looking to streamline the production of a part for a mining process,” says O’Neill. “We’re also working extensively with the UTS Gallery, printing pieces for their ‘Hello World’ art show (in July).
“We do lots of work with DAB designers and collaborate with people from Science to make exoskeletons – so it’s a very broad spectrum and that’s exactly what the space is for.”
O’Neill says the university wants people to come in and experiment with how they can use 3D printing and additive manufacturing, to “push the boundaries of what can be made.”
Researchers will push more boundaries to refine and improve the printing machines themselves, says O’Neill.
ProtoSpace is working with Israeli company Dragonfly, who have supplied them with a machine that’s the third of its type in the world, and with Melbourne’s Spee3D, to further develop their machines to improve functionality and commercial viability.
For UTS staff, students and researchers, ProtoSpace is delivering unmatched opportunities to gain skills and experience in emerging additive manufacturing applications, setting them up to be industry leaders.
“Additive is becoming more and more integrated into industry,” says O’Neill.
“Design iterations are very strongly linked to using additive now and it’s becoming more common in the production landscape, used to make bespoke parts or highly complex assemblies.
“Companies like Airbus and GE Electric and big engineering firms are looking to additive as an application to cut costs and make bespoke parts. So training up engineers and designers and science students to be able to use these processes is going to give them skills that will really benefit them when they go out to industry.”
No end to the opportunities ProtoSpace will offer
While ProtoSpace is already fitted out with an impressive collection of high-tech machinery, more equipment will be added in coming months. Teaching operations will also expand, to offer short courses and up-skilling opportunities for industry.
There is no end to the opportunities that ProtoSpace will offer, O’Neill says.
“Our first phase is getting in commercial machines and using them in new applications. Our second phase will focus more on pure experimentation and pushing the technology by making our own machines or using experimental machines so we can play with the raw concept of 3D printing.”
Take a tour through ProtoSpace and you might spot a miniature, highly detailed Eiffel Tower replica. Or a brightly coloured child size ankle brace. Or a bespoke contemporary stool with an intricate design.
“A whole grab-bag of unique, appealing and functional items are being produced in this new space,” says O’Neill.