Australia’s federal government will announce in the coming days the deployment of 3D printing technology to manufacture its own solar panels.
In a statement on Monday, the federal minister for renewable energy, Josh Frydenberg, said Australia would begin a pilot program in early 2018, with the first modules in place by 2019.
“With the help of the World Trade Organization and international organisations, we are developing a 3D printer that can produce a fully functional solar cell, which will allow the manufacturing of photovoltaic solar cells from the most basic materials in the world,” Frydenber said.
The program is expected to create jobs, and the program will cost $2.5 billion to $2 billion, he said.
Australia has been the first major market in the Americas for 3D printers, with its $2 million 3D Systems facility in Sydney, Australia, where the first batch of 3-D printers are currently being manufactured.
The program will use a 3-axis 3D scanning machine to create the panels, which are designed to produce light and heat, and to produce the light that is needed to generate electricity.
In the coming months, the pilot program will expand to other countries, Frydenburg said.
In the past, the US and Europe have been the primary markets for 3-dimensional printers, but the market is currently smaller in Asia, where China and Japan have been leaders.
Australia has a history of using 3D manufacturing to make solar panels, but it has struggled to meet the demands of the new generation of solar power, including the large quantities of waste heat that must be removed from solar panels before they can be used.
In 2016, the International Solar Alliance said Australia was one of the first countries to introduce 3D technology into its solar sector, and that the market had already grown by 40 percent to $8.5 million.
The group said that the world’s solar market would grow from a total of more than $50 billion in 2020 to more than 100 billion by 2050.
“The world’s leading producers and users of solar PV are now in a position to be leaders in the global market for 3DM [three-dimensional printing] technology,” the alliance said.
“In Australia, the industry has taken a leap forward in adopting 3D solar technology.
The first phase of this pilot program is underway.”