It’s a big day for the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center. Literally. The university has been awarded not one, not two, but three Guinness World Records today for its large-format 3D printer and related projects. The 3D printer itself was awarded the record for largest prototype polymer 3D printer, while the team also received the titles of largest solid 3D printed object and largest 3D printed boat.
The records were officially bestowed today at an event attended by a myriad of federal and state officials, business executives, community members and leaders from the University of Maine.
In addition to receiving the accolades from the Guinness World Record officials, the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center also marked the event by setting its 3D printed boat, the 3Dirigo (a play on Maine’s motto), on its maiden voyage, so to speak. The 25-foot-long, 5,000-pound boat was tested at the Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering Laboratory, an offshore model testing facility equipped with a high-performance wind machine and a multidirectional wave basin.
The Pine Tree State
In May, UMaine and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) were granted $20 million to develop a bio-based additive manufacturing program focused on the development of wood-filled 3D printing materials derived from the forestry industry and large-format AM. The 3D printer and 3D printed boat project are a big step in the advancement of this government-supported project.
“I was delighted to join UMaine’s celebration unveiling the world’s largest 3D printer and largest 3D printed object,” commented Senator Susan Collins. “The future of the [UMaine] Composites Center is bright, thanks to the excellent working relationship between UMaine, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and many other federal agencies, which will support next-generation, large-scale additive manufacturing with bio-based thermoplastics.
“As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I helped secure $20 million for this exciting collaboration, and an additional $20 million is included in the committee-approved energy funding bill. By working together, UMaine and Oak Ridge will strengthen environmentally responsible advanced manufacturing throughout America, as well as the forest-products industry in Maine.”
Sen. Angus King added: “Maine is the most forested state in the nation, and now we have a 3D printer big enough to make use of this bountiful resource. Today marks the latest innovative investment in Maine’s forest economy, which will serve to increase sustainability, advance the future of bio-based manufacturing and diversify our forest products industry. This is a huge opportunity for the state of Maine, and I’m grateful to everyone—especially the University of Maine and the FOR/Maine initiative—for their work to make this day a reality.”
3Dirigo and Army shelters
The 3D printer developed by the UMaine team is built to print objects as large as 100 x 22 x 10 feet in size at a rate of up to 500 pounds per hour. To demonstrate the machine’s capability, the team printed a 25-foot patrol boat with a special hull designed by ship design firm Navatek. The impressive boat was printed in just 72 hours, leveraging the 3D printer’s additive and subtractive manufacturing capabilities.
In addition to the 3D printed boat, the researchers also introduced a 3D printed 12-foot-long U.S. Army Communications shelter. This project was a demonstration of a collaboration between UMaine and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Soldier Center to develop new, rapidly deployable shelters for soldiers.
“The innovation that we have witnessed here at the University of Maine will revolutionize how the Army prototypes and manufactures shelters, vehicles and other large systems,” said Col. Frank Moore, military deputy for the CCDC Soldier Center. “The lighter yet stronger 3D printed systems will advance the state of the art in additive manufacturing, forging the future of expeditionary equipment IAW with the Army’s new policy on advanced manufacturing.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and UMaine team will also explore the use of the 3D printer to develop new low-logistics infrastructure systems, such as a 5,000-pound, 21-foot-long 3D printed mold for a 76-foot-long composites bridge girder. The new bridge birder has reportedly been licensed to Advanced Infrastructure Technology—a UMaine spinoff—and will be used to fabricate bridge girders in Hampden, Maine this upcoming summer.
“We are truly honored to be working with leaders from the Maine boatbuilding industry, Maine Forest Products Industry, the national construction industry, Maine Technology Institute, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the U.S. Dept of Energy Advanced Manufacturing Office, the U.S. Office of Naval Research, the U.S. Army, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” said Habib Dagher, executive director of UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center. “With this large printer, we will be able to accelerate innovation and prototype development in both the civilian and military sectors.
“This 3D printer is an outgrowth of research we have been doing for 15 years in combining cellulosic nano and micro fibers with thermoplastic materials,” Dagher said. “Our goal is to print with 50% wood products at 500 pounds per hour, and achieve properties similar to aluminum. We thank our congressional delegation for their support.”