The Guinness Book of World Records is filled with strange, extraordinary, and awe-inspiring feats and accomplishments. This week, the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) snagged a spot in the record book with the world’s largest solid 3D printed object. The record was set at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) at ORNL, which is supported by the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) and is home to a state-of-the-art 3D printer known as BAAM (Big Area Additive Manufacturing). BAAM is 500 to 1,000 times faster and capable of printing polymer components 10 times larger than today’s industrial additive manufacturing machines.
As exciting as the record is, it isn’t just a piece printed for show. The record-setting object is actually a trim-and-drill tool developed in collaboration with Boeing for use in the manufacture of wings for passenger aircraft. It weighs 1,650 lbs and measures 17.5 feet long, 5.5 feet wide, and 1.5 feet tall (about 144 cubic feet), shattering the previous record of 10.6 cubic feet by more than an order of magnitude. It took only 30 hours to print. That may sound like a long time, but compared to the months that would be required to manufacture the piece using traditional methods, it’s a small drop in the bucket. This process also significantly cuts down on the amount of material and energy required to manufacture the tool.
Although this is the MDF’s first record officially certified by Guinness, it’s far from the first incredible thing that has come out of the facility. AMO has long been a supporter of rapid innovation in 3D printing: from the Shelby Cobra to developing first of their kind 3D-printed molds for wind turbine blades. Each of AMO’s incredible final products coming out of the MDF show the real-world applications of this platform manufacturing technology. What is more exciting than the record itself is the implication it has for the future of advanced manufacturing: we can innovate and manufacture things bigger, stronger, faster, and with less waste than ever before, setting us up to be extremely competitive in the global clean energy race.
To learn more about the record and see the tool being printed, watch this video.