ORONO – It has the potential to change the state’s boat building and forestry economies, and on Thursday 3-D printing technology set records in Orono…
Three years in the making, the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center now houses the world’s largest 3D printer.
On Thursday, researchers and politicians unveiled the machine that can print 500 pounds in an hour.
“Can you imagine being able to tell your grandchildren, ‘I was there when they invented the hammer’, this is in that same category, this is going to change everything,” said Sen. Angus King at the unveiling ceremony.
With this technology, U Maine printed a 5,000 pound boat – the world’s largest 3D printed vessel.
“Chancellor, I’ve been here a lot longer than you have, so I get first dibs,” joked Sen. Susan Collins.
And Maine’s legislators did get first dibs on the boat, testing it out with simulated waves and wind at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center.
“If you’re going to build a boat like this, a new design of a boat like this, it may take months if not a year to build it,” said Habib Dagher, the director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center. Instead, U Maine printed their boat in 72 hours.
They’re working with the state’s ship building industry, and plan to use the printer for making boat molds.
They’re also working with the forestry industry, exploring the use of wood particles that have similar properties to metals.
“If we can figure out how to take these very strong nanoparticles of wood, place them in bioplastics, we can make very strong plastics,” said Dagher. “We’re not there yet by any means, we have a lot of work to do, this is the beginning of a long road.”
The printer also has potential for the military as a quicker way to make parts, and to print communications shelters, like one on display at U Maine.
In all, U Maine’s work with 3D printing set three Guinness world records – not a bad haul for a Thursday morning.