New partnership could produce a 3D printer that prints objects 500 times faster and 10 times larger


Credit: Signe Brewster

3D printing is slow; so slow that printing an object several feet long is an arduous task that can take days. As a result, most 3D printers are tailored to printing small objects that take a few hours at most.

That could change for industrial-sized printers after the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and machine tool manufacturer Cincinnati Incorporated signed an agreement this month, reported today. The partnership will focus on creating a 3D printer capable of printing objects at 200-500 times the speed and 10 times the size of most current printers.

ORNL and Cincinnati Inc. will build the printer by adapting an existing Cincinnati Inc. laser cutting machine to include 3D printing hardware. Instead of relying on spools of string-like plastic, it will rely on pellets of an unnamed polymer.

Pellets are both a cheaper and more flexible source of “ink” for a 3D printer. But they are currently very rarely used. Powders and liquid resin are generally the materials of choice industrial-scale, relatively fast printers.

This is not ORNL’s only venture into 3D printing. The lab announced earlier this month that it will pair with Local Motors to create a 3D printed vehicle.


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