As the center of the United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) national laboratory program, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has been responsible for countless technological advancements developed by the combined staff of researchers pulled from US universities and private industry. Currently there are over 4,000 researchers working with ORNL, 1,400 of them are permanent staff and more than 3,000 consisting of guest and interim researchers. While there is no formal limitations to the variety of technologies that ORNL can research, they tend to focus on areas of energy, manufacturing, security, physics and materials. ORNL holds hundreds of patents for the express purpose of licensing the technology out to private sector companies that will enhance the nation’s economic security.
Recently ORNL announced that they have entered a formal non-exclusive licensing agreement with Ohio 3D printer technology company Strangpresse for a selection of ORNL patents related to large-scale additive manufacturing. Under the agreement, Strangpresse and their parent company Hapco Inc. are authorized to develop products using the ORNL patented technology that will enable them to use 3D printing technology to manufacture parts and objects larger than current standards. All of the related patented ORNL technology involves advanced materials and refined industrial processes intended to decrease costs and increase manufacturing efficiency, including the Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine.
The licensing agreement between Strangpresse and ORNL is most likely related to a recent collaborative effort between Strangpresse and fellow Ohio company Md Plastics to develop a vertical, robot-arm mounted extrusion head capable of the highly controlled deposition of around 100 lbs of 3D printing material per hour. The special extruder developed by Strangpresse would work closely with advanced screw, barrel, and check-valve technology that Md Plastics adapted from injection molding technology. The check valve works to prevent drool and stringing when the deposition arm stops and is expected to be integrated into a complete BAAM system using a six-axis robot.
“We’re very pleased to be joining with ORNL to carry large-scale additive manufacturing technology to the marketplace. Our leadership team has over 70 years of experience in the thermoplastics extrusion industry, and we see this partnership as a great opportunity to expand this technology,” said Strangpresse President Chuck George.
This is the first new partnership utilizing ORNL’s large-scale related 3D printing technology since the lab debuted their 3D printed replica of a Shelby Cobra at the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility located on the ORNL campus. While the Cobra was officially revealed at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in January, President Obama visited the MDF earlier in the month to examine the functional replica car that was manufactured from scratch using the BAAM in only six weeks.
As 3D printing technology develops rapidly, with research labs like ORNL leading the charge, more and more manufacturing companies are looking to explore ORNL’s catalog of intellectual property. The lab makes their large portfolio of patents associated with large-scale additive manufacturing available to US businesses for licensing on a non-exclusive basis. According to the leader of ORNL’s Manufacturing Systems Research group Lonnie Love, their next-generation additive manufacturing technology offers the automotive, aerospace and prototyping industries new opportunities to increased efficiency and quality.
“Our goal is to demonstrate the potential of large-scale additive manufacturing as an innovative and viable manufacturing technology. We want to improve digital manufacturing solutions for the automotive industry,” explained Love.
Strangpresse was founded in 2014 to research, develop, and commercialize fully controllable, lightweight, thermoplastic extruders for industrial quality 3D printers. The Youngstown, Ohio company sells their extruders and other 3D printing technology primarily to universities, research labs and industrial manufacturing companies.
Discuss this partnership in the ORNL 3D Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com.
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