3D Printing

UMaine breaks record with new 3D printer

7th May 2024
Sheryl Miles

UMaine has surpassed its own 2019 Guinness World Record by unveiling a new polymer 3D printer, four times larger than its predecessor, aimed at propelling sustainable manufacturing across various industries.

The printer, called Factory of the Future 1.0 (FoF 1.0), was revealed in April at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC).

The thermoplastic polymer printer can produce objects up to 96 feet long, 32 feet wide, and 18 feet high, with a capacity to print up to 500 pounds per hour. This first of its kind printer offers significant opportunities for environmentally-friendly and cost-effective production in sectors such as national security, affordable housing, bridge construction, and maritime vessel fabrication. The development of this hybrid manufacturing system was supported by the Office of the Secretary of Defence and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

FoF 1.0 integrates various manufacturing processes, including large-scale additive manufacturing, subtractive manufacturing, continuous tape layup, and robotic arm operations, and it works in tandem with MasterPrint, ASCC’s first record-setting 3D printer, to enhance manufacturing research at the centre.

US Senator Susan Collins highlighted the importance of the ASCC in supporting the Department of Defence’s future manufacturing needs and has secured more than £93 million since the fiscal year 2022 for this initiative and other defence projects at ASCC.

Dr. Habib Dagher, ASCC Executive Director, praised the new research capabilities FoF 1.0 brings, incorporating advanced robotics, new sensors, high-performance computing, and AI to produce systems meeting high-quality standards.

This printer will also enhance biobased feedstock development from Maine's wood residuals, promoting initiatives like BioHome3D for sustainable, affordable housing and advancing national security technologies.

Heidi Shyu, OUSD (R&E) and CTO for the Department of Defence, commented on the longstanding collaboration with UMaine ASCC, emphasising the impact of these advancements on both national security and global economic vitality.

The unveiling precedes the construction of a new 47,000-square-foot Green Engineering and Materials Factory of the Future, scheduled for an August groundbreaking. This facility will further UMaine's role in advanced manufacturing and materials science, vital for both local economic growth and national needs.

In line with the GEM initiative, UMaine prioritises workforce development and has been instrumental in aligning with the Maine College of Engineering and Computing to foster a skilled workforce ready for a digital and interconnected global economy.

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