Maine University’s (UMaine) Advanced Structures & Composite Center has set three new Guinness World Records with its new polymer 3D printer.
The prototype polymer 3D printer – certified as the world’s largest – has managed to create the world’s largest 3D-printed boat which also happens to be the world’s largest 3D printed object.
The 25-foot, 5,000-pound boat – demonstrated to be sea-worthy – is one such example of how the massive printer can create larger prototypes to assist companies in product development, intones the Center’s Founding Director, Habib Dagher.
“This new printer is going to allow us to innovate so much faster by having prototypes made faster than in the past.”
The boat has been christened 3Dirigo – a play on Maine’s motto ‘Dirigo,’ which is Latin stands for ‘I lead.’
According to Dagher, the record-breaking printer is currently 70 feet long and will grow up to 100 feet with an extension.
The 3D printer, which can gobble up 500 pounds of plastic polymer pellets per hour, is already proving useful as demonstrated by the patrol boat.
But the university hopes to make it better through a $20 million research collaboration with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
The UMaine-ORNL collaboration will focus on using bio-based thermoplastics reinforced by cellulose-based materials to create a 3D printable material that’s strong, durable and recyclable.
Dagher contends that if it works according to plan, the printer will be able to quickly produce items like molds for boats or concrete casks that could be recycled afterward.
The composites center has also received $500,000 from the Maine Technology Institute to help Maine boat builders explore how large-scale 3D printing can provide the industry with a competitive advantage.
Apart from the boat, the 3D printer has been used to create a mold for a bridge girder and a communication shelter for the Army.
As for the boat which cost about $40,000 to produce, it was the first thing printed by the university.
It was created in one solid piece during a nonstop printing process of over 72 hours.
The printer itself cost $2.5 million and a majority of the funding was borne by the U.S. Army.
Image and content: UMaine/David Sharp-Associated Press (AP)