On Oct. 10, 2019, the University of Maine held a formal ceremony in the Advanced Structures and Composites Center to honor and welcome the world’s largest 3D printer to the Orono campus. The ceremony saw more than 300 people turn out to the unveiling.
The project to get the printer to UMaine began as a collaboration with the United States Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In May, it was announced that the 3D printer would be coming to Orono. Collectively, UMaine and Oak Ridge worked together in bringing the 3D printer to the Orono campus. The collaboration is based upon the accessibility and knowledge of UMaine, due to their work with sustainable materials and composites, as well as Oak Ridge’s knowledge of 3D printing processes. UMaine’s research in composite materials was used to inform the printing process and the printer will take permanent residence in the Advanced Structures and Composites Center.
Dr. Habib Dagher is the executive director and founder of the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center. Dagher was very excited about this addition to the University of Maine.
“This has never been done in the world,” Dagher said “The purpose of this is to see what’s possible.”
The first product of the world’s largest 3D printer was a boat named “3Dirigo.” The boat is the largest object in the world to ever be printed by a 3D printer, making history and earning a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. The boat weighs 5,000 pounds, is 25 feet long and is made from wood cellulose and a combination of plastics that were transformed into a printable composite.
Approximately 160 UMaine students work in the Advanced Structures and Composites Center per year, with around 30 working on the creation of ‘3Dirigo’.
Without the printer, a boat similar to this would normally be a rigorous construction project. However, it was created in approximately 70 hours with the printer. Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, as well as Rep. Jared Golden, were all in attendance at the ceremony. Sens. Collins and King, Rep. Golden and Dhager all boarded the boat after the printing process was completed.
“I was delighted to join UMaine’s celebration unveiling the world’s largest 3D printer and largest 3D-printed object,” Collins said. “The future of the [UMaine] Composites Center is bright, thanks to the excellent working relationship between UMaine, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and many other federal agencies, which will support next-generation, large-scale additive manufacturing with biobased thermoplastics.”
Steve Von Vogt, executive director of the Maine Composites Alliance, noted that Maine housing the world’s largest 3D printer is “a huge win.”
The state of Maine currently has the highest median age of all of the United States, and the UMaine faculty hopes that the 3D printer will attract university students from all over the country.
“It’s beyond what you would ever get in the classroom,” Dagher said, noting that the 3D printer will be a compliment to the teaching potential at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center.