New Kreator technology empowers Australian innovators.  By Tijana Trifunovich

Decades ago, Australia was known as the Innovation Nation. Then, the era of cheap off-shore production began. Now, we’re turning the page on a new chapter – one sparked by new technology, never before seen on local shores.

Advanced Materials and Plastics lead for Sydney-based manufacturing distributor Innovync, Anthony Cruz, has his finger on the pulse of global manufacturing innovation. Innovync’s exclusive deal with Italian CNC leaders CMS is a gateway to some of the most interesting machines on the market – including the groundbreaking Kreator.

Developed in collaboration with Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, the large-format Screw Extrusion Additive Manufacturing (SEAM) technology merges with 5 axis CNC milling. A powerful fusion, to say the least. The potential for catalysing product innovation is enormous.

Australia is about to receive one of its very own in the coming months. Purchased by a public facility to make prototyping in a test environment more accessible to manufacturers, the role of Australia’s Kreator is to realise big ideas with minimal investment.

“For example, a company can reach out to the facility and they can provide access to advanced capabilities for the development of parts, processes, people and partnerships. They are designed to deliver advanced manufacturing solutions to the customers in a production-relevant environment,” explained Cruz.

With CMS’ Advanced Materials range used by the likes of SpaceX, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin, The Kreator immediately piqued interest. The ability to 3D print parts and quickly achieve a high-quality finish is extremely useful for high-precision industries that work with specialised materials – like the marine, automotive, and aerospace sectors.

A build volume of up to 10m, in three different directions (vertical, horizontal and 45 degrees), offers the room to create anything from tooling, trimming and assembly jigs to machining fixtures or direct lamination molds. On the printing side, materials such as PLA, PET, PA6 and ABS reinforced with up to 50% glass fibre or carbon are commonly used.

Two versions of the machine are available: one with a flow rate of up to 100kg/hour, and the other – which Australia is receiving – at ten kg/hour, with two bridges to support milling and printing.  But before all that, the onboard slicing software generates optimised printing paths, 3D printing simulations and estimated print times, plus weight estimates.

“The Kreator has been supplied to the Aerospace industry internationally and is used to produce jigs and fixtures. An example is a CFRP machining vacuum fixture. The material that’s being used is ABS + 20% carbon fibre. They print the part and then mill it to achieve a high-quality finish,” said Cruz.

To illustrate the impact of this hybrid machine, if a part is to be produced via traditional process, fabricators would have to:

  1. Cut and bond epoxy boards
  2. Do pre-form milling
  3. Do the CFRP mold lamination on the pre-form.
  4. Do CFRP mold autoclave curing
  5. CFRP mold preparation and surface finishing
  6. Then CFRP part lamination and curing

And that’s when you get the finished part.

Until recently, this process was the only route to get high-quality aerospace parts made. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and requires a significant amount of relatively expensive materials. The Kreator, with its milling-printing capabilities, compresses the process from six steps to just three.

  • Mold production by additive process
  • Mold milling and surface finishing, and
  • CFRP part lamination and curing.

The difference is huge.

“Using a traditional process, machining of epoxy tooling boards with a size of 1000 x 600 x 300mm, made from ABS + 20% carbon fibre weighs in at approximately 150kg. Using the Kreator, the weight goes down to 40kg. That’s a 60% savings in materials used and the weight of the part. In terms of time-saving, you would probably save about 50%,” explained Cruz.

With such a streamlined process in place, local industries have the room to innovate on-shore. No need to send parts overseas and wait weeks for the finished product. No worries about having IP stolen during the manufacturing process. The Innovation Nation is primed to produce once more.

Production on the Kreator is set to commence later in the year. If you’re curious to see this machine in person, head to the Innovync stand this April for Sydney’s Australian Manufacturing Week.