The U.S Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has partnered with machine tool manufacturer Cincinnati Incorporated to speed up 3D printing. The joint project aims not only to make 3D printing 200 to 500 times faster, but also to increase the size of 3D-printed objects 10 times.
Although there are technological breakthroughs happening on a daily basis, 3D printing still hasn’t hit mainstream manufacturing due to limitations in speed and size of the objects. It often takes days for 3D printers to print a large object, which keeps the technology from becoming an economically viable solution for mass production.
The technology ORNL plans to use is based on knowledge gained through their collaboration with Lockheed Martin, a major aerospace, defense and advanced technology company, according to project leader Dr. Lonnie Love. It includes going directly from pellets to parts, instead of filament. Plus their printer will have a larger nozzle than standard 3D printers that is 0.3 inches in diameter instead of 0.02 inches. This will enable the extrusion of fiber reinforced material, speed up the printing process, and quite possibly revolutionize 3D printing.