NORTH Link Innovation Series – Tour of CSIRO Lab 22

Published: NORTH Link

On Tuesday 19 February, we had the pleasure of facilitating a tour of the CSIRO Lab 22 3D printing facilities. More than forty guests attended, from CEO’s to students, representing the manufacturing industry to education to logistics.

3D printing is important because it enables automation of the manufacturing process.

The day began with a quick word from Chris James welcoming attendees and letting them know about NORTH Link’s new North and West Melbourne Data Analytics Hub. The Hub offers businesses the opportunity to take data students from a variety of tertiary institutions to address a business problem as scoped out by the organisation and NORTH Link.

Chris James speaking at CSIRO Lab 22

After that, CSIRO’s Daniel East spoke to the full room about the exciting opportunities that CSIRO have available. While he did speak about the mechanics and science behind the machines and how they operate, he also detailed how businesses can get involved and what the process can offer them.

And then the tour began.

Tour group in CSIRO Lab 22

We were taken into a laboratory filled with example displays. Replacement body parts, logos, spheres, machine parts and bikes, the range seemed limited to your imagination. An important example was titanium heels and ribcages for cancer patients. This room also clued us in to something else; the range of materials that could be used for 3D printing. In our brief time in that room, we saw zinc, iron, bronze, magnesium, titanium and even sand.

In the next room, we were broken up into smaller groups to see the individual machines the CSIRO operate.

At the V Xeljet VX1000 (the machine that 3D prints sand), we were told how these 3D sand models can act as inexpensive casts for a short run of uses. Not only that, but the process can will take a mere day or two, whereas most original casts can take up to six weeks to get right.

CSIRO Lab 22 sand sculpture

Next was the machine from Aurora Labs. This machine was the least expensive machine in the lab, making it worth hundreds of thousands instead of millions. While much cheaper, this machine doesn’t compromise on the quality of its printing, still managing to create prints with fine details.

Perhaps the most visually impressive machine was the Optomec, given the window it had into the 3D printing process. Even with the protective tinted glass, attendees were still anxious about the bright light the printer emitted. This machine was able to use multiple materials in the one print, one such item was a fusion of diamond and steel.

Concept laser 3D printer

The Concept Laser M2 Cusing was next, and we were able to see on a screen how it took mere seconds to zap an area greater than any other machine in the facility. This machine is four years old, and we were told newer machines have more lasers, meaning that they can get the job done even faster. The benefit of this machine over the others in the facility is that it can print extremely smooth surfaces, giving a finish that feels nice to the touch.

Finally, there was the Arcam EBM System. This machine was hot. It is designed to keep the coolest parts of the print at temperatures of at least 700 degrees Celsius to aid the printing and bonding process. Next to it, a CSIRO worker was pulling parts off his cubes, the side of 3D printing that was dubbed ‘not so glamorous.’ He was cutting off the supports from his 3D prints, a long but necessary process.

3D printed cubes

These machines are all available for the public to pay a small fee to use. Prices can vary depending on the print due to size or material, and the CSIRO is more than happy to talk about your options.

NORTH Link occasionally holds tours with the CSIRO and other organisations in a variety of industries. To find out when the next NORTH Link event is, go to

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