Way back in June of last year we covered an announcement by Cincinnati Inc. and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) which revealed one of the world’s largest and most productive 3D printers, the Big Area Additive Manufacturing Machine (BAAM). Cincinnati Inc., a company which has been building manufacturing technology for over 116 years, teamed with the science and technology laboratory, managed by the US Department of Energy, because they wanted to transform the way manufacturers look at 3D printers. The BAAM machine was capable of printing a staggering 10 pounds of ABS-composite thermoplastic per hour. This compares to only a few grams that most traditional machines are able to put out each hour. Additionally, the original BAAM machine had a build envelope of approximately 6 x 12 x 3 feet, making it likely the largest FFF 3D printer in existence.
As a testimony to how rapidly the industry has progressed over just nine months, this printer — which has gone on to produce everything from tables and chairs to several 3D printed cars by Local Motors to a remake of a Shelby Cobra — has now been supplanted by a machine created by the very companies that produced it.
Via communications we have had with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 3DPrint.com has been informed that they have been collaborating with Cincinnati Inc. on what is likely the fastest and largest 3D printer of its kind. There’s been a tremendous amount of research and development poured into this latest machine, which seemingly has paid off.
Their latest 3D printer, nicknamed ‘Bertha,’ is capable of printing at rates 10 times that of the original BAAM machine. Instead of outputting 10 pounds of thermoplastic an hour, ‘Bertha’ can print up to a staggering 100 pounds of ABS plastic in an hour, increasing its output by an incredible 1,000%.
“We have a new extrusion system we will likewise be implementing on it that has a production rate of 100 lb/hr,” explained Lonnie Love, Group Leader, Automation, Robotics, and Manufacturing at ORNL, to 3DPrint.com. “We are in the process of getting it completely integrated now, should be operational in a few weeks.”
If that isn’t enough to impress you, consider the fact that this latest machine has an even larger build volume, able to print in sizes up to 20 ft long x 8 ft wide x 6 ft tall.
Considering that when Local Motors used the original BAAM machine to fabricate the body of their Strati car at the International Manufacturing Technology Show back in September it took them approximately 44 hours, a quick calculation would lead us to guess that with this latest BAAM machine, that same car could theoretically be printed in under 5 hours. In fact, Local Motors plans to take delivery of a few of these machines for its microfactory in Knoxville, in close proximity to ORNL. With these machines they expect to begin 3D printing cars on-demand sometime next year.
Team members at ORNL are also tinkering around 3D printing kayaks and canoes with this new machine and expect to turn their attention towards actual boats in the future. Additionally, they would like to eventually print even larger items such as blades for wind turbines.
So what else is next on the menu for Cincinnati Inc. and ORNL? How about printing with metals such as aluminum and steel? That’s exactly what they are turning their attention to next. ORNL is in the process of coming to terms on an extended 10-year collaboration agreement with Cincinnati Inc., and will look into reducing the cost and time it takes to print with metals. To do this, they must turn their attention away from the more expensive materials like titanium and instead look towards steel and aluminum. If successful they could greatly reduce the cost of industrial components for things such as buses, trucks, and aircraft.
What this partnership is doing is greatly expanding the possible applications for 3D printing, ultimately driving manufacturing costs down, leading to savings across the board for both consumers and manufacturers alike. Let us know your thoughts on this latest 3D printer from Cincinnati Inc. and ORNL. Discuss in the BAAM 3D Printer Upgrade forum thread on 3DPB.com.