A team of RMIT University researchers are using laser metal deposition technology to build and repair military aircraft parts as part of a two-year collaboration with RUAG Australia and the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC).
The technology feeds metal powder into a laser beam, which when scanned across a surface adds new material in a precise, web-like formation. The metallurgical bond created has mechanical properties similar, or in some cases superior, to those of the original material.
“It’s basically a very high tech welding process where we make or rebuild metal parts layer by layer,” RMIT Professor Milan Brandt explained in a release.
The release says that, by enabling onsite repair and production of parts, the technology could transform the concept of warehousing and transporting for Defence and other industries. “Instead of waiting for spare parts to arrive from a warehouse, an effective solution will now be on-site,” Head of Research and Technology at RUAG Australia, Neil Matthews added. “For defence forces this means less downtime for repairs and a dramatic increase in the availability and readiness of aircraft.”
CEO and Managing Director of the IMCRC, David Chuter, believes application of this technology will be much broader than Defence. “The project’s benefits to Australian industry are significant. Although the current project focuses on military aircraft, it is potentially transferable to civil aircraft, marine, rail, mining, oil and gas industries.”