World’s First Operational 3D Printed Excavator Step Closer to Reality

For the past two years a conglomerate of trade associations, industry, government and academia have been collaborating on the world’s first operational 3D printed excavator.

That project made a giant 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.

Known affectionately as Project AME (Additive Manufactured Excavator), the excavator is being 3D printed using various machines at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) to create and assemble three components: the cab, the boom and a heat exchanger.

The excavator’s boom will be fabricated using newly developed free-form additive manufacturing technique to print large-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 watch their cab design take shape on the big area additive manufacturing machine – using carbon fiber-reinforced acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS, plastic.

The excavator is a collaboration 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).

This project was supported by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy – Advanced Manufacturing Office.

Project AME will be on display at IFPE and CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017 as part of the new Tech Experience.

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