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Big News in 3D Printing – Literally

Posted on August 31st, 2016 by in New Materials & Applications


Image is a composite of “Guinness World Record” by NicolasPazVal99, used under CC BY and “ORNL-Boeing trim tool” by ORNL. Image is licensed under CC BY by Ken Klapproth.

It’s not often that the term “biggest ever” can be used non-hyperbolically, but researchers at ORNL have earned this right as conferred by GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™.

Additive manufacturing continues to revolutionize how manufacturers produce products from the nanoscale to the very large. New processes in deposition and advancements in printable materials have overcome the initial limitations of 3d printing machine size.

It seemed only fitting when the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory recently announced receiving a Guinness World Record for the title of largest solid 3D printed item it was for a drilling and trimming tool for the world’s largest twin engine jet – the Boeing 777X.

ORNL printed the wing trim tool on their Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine within the U.S. Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility. Overall, the tool measures in at 17.5 feet long, 5.5 feet wide and 1.5 feet tall, with an approximate weight of 1,650 pounds. You can see – and appreciate – the scale of production in the DOE’s video below.

Boeing plans to put the tool into service in their new production facility located in St. Louis following final quality verification testing by ORNL. With orders already in place with airlines such as Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, and Emirates, production of the 777X begins in 2017 with first delivery targeted for 2020.

Superlatives aside, additive manufacturing has ushered in a new era in low cost, high precision, efficient manufacturing. For industries such as aerospace where the cost of tooling can dwarf the cost of the initial part, additive manufacturing techniques can represent the “best method ever”.

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All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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