HARDIN VALLEY—A tool made by Oak Ridge National Laboratory has set a world record for largest solid item manufactured on a 3D printer. Guinness World Records confirmed the tool’s measurements during a visit to ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility in Hardin Valley on Monday.
The trim-and-drill tool measures 17.5 feet long, 5.5 feet wide, and 1.5 feet tall. It’s comparable in length to a large sport utility vehicle and weighs approximately 1,650 pounds.
It will be used to help make a wing part on the Boeing 777X airplane, a passenger jet. After ORNL completes some testing, Boeing will evaluate the tool in the company’s new production facility in St. Louis and then provide information to ORNL about its performance.
ORNL printed the trim-and-drill tool in only 30 hours on a 3D printer at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility in Hardin Valley using mostly ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) mixed with about 20 percent carbon fiber. ABS is the same material used to produce Legos, and it’s a tough, strong polymer, said Bill Peter, MDF director.
Judge Michael Empric said Guinness World Records had set a minimum measurement of 10.5 cubic feet for the new largest solid 3D printed item, which is a new category. The Boeing tool printed by ORNL measured much larger, 82.4 cubic feet, Empric said.
The original tool was printed in one piece and was larger, but it was trimmed down, Empric said.
Weight is not part of the record.
The new category specifies that the item has to be solid, as opposed to using a lattice or honeycomb.
It’s the second world record for Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, is the process of building an item layer by layer using metals, polymers, or ceramics. The Boeing tool was printed on a Big Area Additive Manufacturing, or BAAM, machine made by a company called Cincinnati Incorporated.
The 30 hours needed to manufacture the tool at the MDF saved significant time. It would normally take three months to make the trim-and-drill tool from a heavy, metal block, said Leo Christodoulou, chief engineer for materials and manufacturing technology in Boeing Research and Technology. Also, that metal tool would not be easily modified.
The 3D printed tool is thick. That’s to give it stiffness and rigidity, Christodoulou said.
It has a vacuum system that will suck the wing part onto the tool and create a seal. That will keep the wing part, a flap on the trailing edge in the center of the wing of the 777X, from moving as the part is trimmed and drilled, Peter said.
ORNL Director Thom Mason said the 3D printed tool will save time, money, and energy. Christodoulou said it saved about 90 percent of the original cost and will allow for a perfect trim.
“This tool—it’s truly a breakthrough,” Christodoulou said during the Monday morning award ceremony.
He said Boeing has been using 3D printed items since as early as 2003 and now has about 50,000 non-structural 3D printed parts, such as those made of nylon.
The record-setting tool printed by ORNL is the largest and most complex for Boeing, Christodoulou said.
“Additively manufactured tools, such as the 777X wing trim tool, will save energy, time, labor, and production costs and are part of our overall strategy to apply 3D printing technology in key production areas,” Christodoulou said.
Peter said a few local companies, Techmer and TruDesign, were involved in the production of the trim-and-drill tool at the MDF.
“The recognition by Guinness World Records draws attention to the advances we’re making in large-scale additive manufacturing composites research,” said Vlastimil Kunc, leader of ORNL’s polymer materials development team. “Using 3D printing, we could design the tool with less material and without compromising its function.”
Production of the 777X is scheduled to begin in 2017, and the first delivery is targeted for 2020.
The other world record set by ORNL was set by the Spallation Neutron Source, which provides the most intense pulsed neutron beams in the world for scientific research and industrial development. The record of 160 kilowatts had been set by the ISIS neutron source in Oxford, England, but SNS set a record of about 180 kilowatts in August 2007. SNS now operates at about 1.4 megawatts, Mason said.
In that case, ORNL had to provide documents to Guinness World Records to confirm the new record.
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