For the last two years a conglomerate of trade associations, industry, government and academia have collaborated on the first operational 3D printed excavator in the world.
The scheme has made a huge leap forward with the recent printing of a prototype that leveraged large-scale additive manufacturing technologies and further explores the feasibility of printing with metal alloys.
Affectionately known as Project AME (Additive Manufactured Excavator), the excavator will be 3D printed using a number of different machines at the Oak Ridge National Laboratoryâs Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) to create and assemble three components: the cab, the boom, and a heat exchanger. The excavatorâs boom will be made using newly developed free-form additive manufacturing techniques to print big scale metal components.
3D printing an excavator for the first time has been a learning experience for both seasoned researchers and the next generation of engineers.
A student engineering team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign won a design competition and was on hand at the MDF to see their cab design take shape on the big area additive manufacturing machine â using carbon fibre reinforced acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS, plastic.
IFPE show director, John Rozum, commented: The reaction of the UIUC team was like watching kids on Christmas morning.
They worked hundreds of hours on this project and it was incredible to see them finally get to watch the printing process and see their design in full size.
The excavator is a joint venture between the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), National Fluid Power Association (NFPA), Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The scheme was supported by DOEâs Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy â Advanced Manufacturing Office.
CCEFP academic partners â Georgia Tech (GT), University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and University of Minnesota (UMN) â are leading the research activities for Project AME.