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The challenge

Overcoming corrosion of manufactured steel products

Current commercially available steel products used in various applications are subject to aggressive corrosion over time, and therefore have limited life span for use across commercial applications. And, as Australia has some of the toughest environmental conditions on the planet this presents ongoing challenges of soil corrosion of steel products.

Our response

A New, Patented Technology

Cold spray is a robotic additive technology that has unique benefits for commercialisation and modernisation of the manufacturing industry with reduced carbon footprint.

Cold Spray ZAP ™ additive manufacturing is complimentary to cold spray technology to manufacture high density wrought structures and mill products which are broadly used across infrastructure, aerospace, defence, household goods and motor vehicle manufacturing.

A typical application for Cold Spray ZAP ™ technology is robotic creation of high-strength corrosion-resistant coating on steel using recycled powders, contributing significantly to a circular economy process while increasing structural integrity of the steel.

The Research

This strategic project program overcame an important barrier in robotic cold spray additive technology by producing a new patented technology that improves on the structural integrity of cold sprayed parts i.e., metal sheeting and wire.

The limited ductility of as‐sprayed material was improved significantly to duplicate off‐the‐shelf wrought products properties. This was achieved through the development of a new process that was provisionally patented TW9257AUROV20062017 in 2018.

This technology, that rapidly transforms cold spray structures, was examined across a broad range of metallic structures including Titanium, Nickel, and Aluminium.

The newly developed technology applicator is equipped with electrically charged electrodes. Metal material that passes through the electrodes is charged or “zapped” with carefully adjusted electric currents and load, combined with forced electron charges. This causes atoms in the structure to rapidly rearrange themselves within milliseconds into a more tightly locked configuration which densifies, adding strength with significantly improved ductility to the cold spray additive structure.

The speed of the in‐situ fabrication in open air makes cold spray products up to 50% cheaper through elimination of high temperature, vacuum heat treatment or HIPing processes with considerably less environmental footprint.

Collaboration Partners

CSIRO initiated a PHD project to conduct deep science validation on CSIRO's patented Cold Spray ZAP technology effectiveness applications in comparison to off-the-shelf wrought products. Following this, CSIRO has embarked on a collaborative research project with leading Australian steel manufacturer - InfraBuild, to modernise InfraBuild's finishing process by introducing CSIRO's solid state, low-cost additive Cold Spray ZAP™ technology.

The project, made possible with $100,000 funding through the Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC)'s activate program, will modernise InfraBuild's finishing process by introducing CSIRO's low-cost robotic Cold Spray ZAP™ additive technology.

Drawing on Industry Expertise 

With more than 100 years continuous operations, InfraBuild is Australia's leading integrated steel manufacturing, distribution and recycling business, providing solutions for commercial and residential construction, large scale and nation-building infrastructure, and primary producers and rural sectors.

IMCRC is an independent and for-impact cooperative research centre (CRC) with a successful, proven and scalable model for catalysing research and business partnerships that drives transformative commercial outcomes for participating Australian manufacturers. To date, IMCRC has successfully co-invested in more than 70 R&D projects, catalysing more than $230 million of Commonwealth and other funding in transformative manufacturing research.

IMCRC’s activate program was introduced in 2020 to support shorter-term, industry-led research projects that help Australian manufacturers take action and gain a competitive edge in the post-COVID-19 world.

CSIRO is Australia's national science agency and innovation catalyst. We solve the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology. Our collaborative research turns science into solutions for food security and quality; clean energy and resources; health and wellbeing; resilient and valuable environments; innovative industries; and a secure Australia and region.

The results

A Superior Material

The IMCRC co-funded research collaboration is enabling InfraBuild and CSIRO to solve a nationwide challenge, improving the sustainability of fencing in Australia under some of the toughest environmental conditions on earth.

This Research & Development aims to modernise Australia's local steel manufacturing capability through the introduction of CSIRO's robotic Cold Spray ZAP™ additive technology.

Benefits to Industry

This new patented technology application results in a superior, more dense material produced by rapid densification and recrystallisation of cold spray additive and has the potential to be a dynamic new process of addictive manufacturing.

The innovative coatings developed as part of this project will significantly increase the life of selected InfraBuild steel products, cutting costs associated with production, installation and corrosion.

The process has the added benefit of using recycled global waste (i.e. titanium powder) therefore contributing to create a circular economy within the industry.

Additionally, it delivers production cost savings, lower energy consumption and lower capital investment via introduction of robotic additive technology all of which lead to a lower carbon footprint.

This type of production usually takes hours to produce, however with this new technology now takes only seconds, and can produce a high deposition rate of 10kg per hour, while the robotic capability makes the technology a potential revolutionary process in commercial viability.

Applications of the technology can be applied to Mill products producing wire and sheet metal and the technology allows manufacturers to replace stainless steel with titanium with considerable benefits for lightweight applications.

As Australia has an abundance of titanium, this creates opportunity for manufacturers to feed into the titanium value chain thus making titanium more accessible across industry.

Where to Next?

The aim of this collaboration with Infrabuild and IMCRC is to collect data to be analysed with view to potential commercialisation and sublicensing of the Cold Spray ZAP ™ technology for Infrabuild products.

Plans are underway to develop independent Cold Spray ZAP ™ additive manufacturing (disruptive) technology that can 3D print a high ductility wrought structure directly from solid powder, without melting. Adaptation of this novel, completely melt-less technology will tap into the titanium supply chain where products currently made from stainless steel may now be produced from titanium, using less energy and reduced capital investment to create a lightweight material with superior strength and significantly improved corrosion properties.

There is also potential for this technology to expand across other industry sectors such as the manufacture of indigenous batteries and commercial infrastructure components i.e., commercial and residential construction applications.

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