The Avalon 2019 Innovation Award Goes to a Cutting Tool
Jimmy Toton, a Ph.D. candidate at the RMIT University in Melbourne, has won this year’s “Young Defence Innovator Award” along with the $15000 money prize that accompanies it. The young engineer has presented a novel 3-D printed steel cutting tool that convinced the judges of its performance by cutting through titanium alloys in a manner that is in many cases considered to be better than the conventional tools used in the field right now. This is very important because many industries, the Defence sector, and companies that develop aerospace solutions all use superalloys and tough metals that are extremely resistive to cutting.
Toton’s 3-D printed milling cutter not only makes the cutting of strong alloys easier and quicker, but it’s also much cheaper to make compared to the cost of conventional tools. In machining, improving productivity while reducing the cost is all one can ask for, so the tool is apparently ready for widespread adoption. This groundbreaking milling cutter is made by using the LMD (Laser Metal Deposition) technology which allows for unprecedented levels of precision in the printing process. Layer by layer, metal powder particles are solidified thanks to the energy of a highly-targeted laser beam, resulting in a strong and reliable cutting tool that can have complex geometry.
Of course, mill cutting tools are subject to enormous forces, and even the slightest material defects or tiny cracks would end up in the quick failure of the cutter. Toton had to go through a series of optimizations in the printing process, based on meticulous quality assurance methods and exhaustive testing. Winning the award has definitely justified his great efforts, but this is only the beginning of the road. This novel cutting tool opens up new possibilities in manufacturing, and it’s so significant that attendees of the event stated that those who have high manufacturing costs are obliged to use this tool to remain competitive. A Sutton Tools representative has also added that Toton’s project has “industry-level” significance. “This project exemplifies the ethos of capability-building through industrial applied research, rather than just focusing on excellent research for its own sake.”