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Queensland Country Hour

13 October 2014

Interviewer: 
Babs McHugh

Subject: Mr Baldwin and Matt Minio from Objective 3D speak to Babs McHugh about the opening of 3D Manufacturing Hub and the potential benefits of 3D printing in rural areas

E&OE

ELIZA ROGERS:                  Meanwhile, the owner of Australia's first commercial 3D manufacturing plant [audio skip] ...vitalise regional areas and take the place of traditional manufacturing like food processing. As Australia's first commercial 3D manufacturing facility opens in Melbourne, the Federal Government says it might sound futuristic, but 3D printing is the future for the Australian industry. Babs McHugh reports.

MATT MINIO:                    We can produce product for niche markets straight off the printer. We can produce high quality product, high value product and that's where Australian manufacturing really needs to specialise moving forward.

REPORTER:                          To Matt Minio, manufacturing in Australia isn't dead. He says it's in a transition period and is ready to grow again. The managing director of Objective 3D says we'll never replace the high volume manufacturing that's gone offshore to cheaper jurisdictions like China, so he's invested heavily in 15 3D printing machines, that it seems can print virtually anything.

MATT MINIO:                    It's almost a case of: what wouldn't you 3D print? We can print medical devices that are lower volume manufacturing that are being used in hospitals that hook up to patients. We can get into the mining industry, where we can do equipment and do unique tooling applications. The 3D printing really works well with specialised, niche, lower volume production quantities, because you don't need to go to tooling and it's a very, very cost effective means when you don't have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on tools to produce parts.

REPORTER:                          As of many developed economies, manufacturing in Australia has struggled with high costs that make it uncompetitive in the global market and force many businesses offshore and the Federal Government says it's high-tech, niche manufacturing of specialist components that will give Australia the ability to compete on quality, not just cost. Parliamentary Secretary for the Industry Minister, Bob Baldwin:

BOB BALDWIN:                 This technology is exactly what is required and when we look at Australia's manufacturing base, we're starting to see the end of - you know, mass produced, high-end and looking to see a more directional shift to leading edge, first of line manufacturing. And Australia has some of the best and brightest design brains in the world and if we can get that into the market ahead of the curve, what it means is, we have the opportunity to capitalise on that as a nation.

REPORTER:                          This 3D printing factory is going to employ 15 people and that may even double. How does that in any way, shape or form, replace the literally tens of thousands of jobs that will be gone from the closure of the car manufacturing industry in a few years?

BOB BALDWIN:                 This type of technology, proven up, working in a commercial scale and more of it will roll out. One of the examples that I saw today was some parts for an old motor vehicle. Now, they weren't commercially available anymore. The person needed this motor vehicle part for a dashboard to be able to get their car going again so the part was actually scanned, checked, printed out and installed into the motor vehicle in a matter of days. And what this is going to mean an end to, in some of the engineering spheres, is mass warehouses required to store lots of spare parts when all they will need is computer disks to store the data and they can print the parts out on demand.

REPORTER:                          Developing a niche manufacturing industry out of 3D printing has come about in part because the cost of the printers themselves have dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars and the electricity they use is comparable to your household refrigerator. Matt Minio also sees future opportunities for regional centres that are grappling with the manufacturing downturn.

MATT MINIO:                    The printer itself, very similar to a 2D inkjet printhead that everybody would be familiar with at home. That inkjet printhead, instead of jetting ink onto a piece of paper, they actually jet a thin film of acrylic-based resin, which would then be cured with the UV lamps. It's probably the thickness of a piece of skin. It's about 16 microns thick. That builds up, layer upon layer, once on top of each other. So, similar to your 2D printer, just going backwards and forwards across a piece of paper, it's doing a similar thing, but it's doing it vertically, stacking it vertically at the same time.

REPORTER:                          Maybe this could be a little manufacturing plant, 3D-additive printing plants in rural towns?

MATT MINIO:                    Yeah, most definitely. Particularly in regional towns that happen to have a manufacturing hub locally, they can be a fantastic resource to manufacture locally and have parts very, very quickly on hand. Because we know that being first to market these days is extremely important, so to have those parts the same day or within a couple of days of your designing being finished is a very large advantage.

ELIZA ROGERS:                 Matt Minio from Objective 3D  ending that story from Babs McHugh.

Media contact: Mr Baldwin's office 02 62774200