Ultra-Fast 3D Printing?

By on February 27th, 2014 in research


A surprise announcement from ORNL and Cincinnati Incorporated hopes to revolutionize 3D printed manufacturing. But how? 

The news release from the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory specifies a partnership with Cincinnati Incorporated (an Ohio-based machine tool manufacturer) to develop an entirely new type of 3D printer. They say: 

Additive manufacturing, often called 3-D printing, can offer time, energy and cost savings over traditional manufacturing techniques in certain applications, but most 3-D polymer printers on the market today can only fabricate small prototype parts. By building a system that is 200 to 500 times faster and capable of printing polymer components 10 times larger than today’s common additive machines – in sizes greater than one cubic meter – the ORNL-CINCINNATI project could introduce significant new capabilities to the U.S. tooling sector, which in turn supports a wide range of industries. Access to such technology could strengthen domestic manufacturing of highly advanced components for the automotive, aerospace, appliance, robotics and many other industries.

This seems a bit odd to us. It is possible to build larger machines, as we’ve seen previously. But printing anything large suffers from warping issues. That’s why large prints are typically done in PLA plastic, which has a small “warp factor”. PLA is probably not appropriate for manufacturing, though, as it is relatively fragile. 

The solution might be to heat the build chamber. But that process is still under Stratasys patent, who evidently are not part of this deal. 

We’re very curious to know which 3D printing process the consortium intends on using for this project. 

Via ORNL (Hat tip to Mary Ellen)