For all of the advancements that 3D printing has made, 3D printing objects is still slow – painfully slow.
In a day and age where speed is of the essence, 3D printers are not yet efficient enough to compete with mass manufacturing systems. 3D printing an object takes hours, if not days, which means it’s drastically slower that most current mass manufacturing processes which are able to produce objects in minutes or less.
The US Government though, wants to change all that. According to a recent article on Forbes, The U.S Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) hopes to make 3D printing faster – and bigger. The ORNL has asked for help from machine tool manufacturer Cincinnati Incorporated to increase the speed of 3D printing. They hope to increase the speed to make it a whopping 200-500 times faster. They also want to increase the size of 3D printed objects, up to ten times larger. The ORNL signed a contract and has set to work on making this a possibility.
Now it’s only a matter of time before 3D printing picks up some real speed. Terry Wohlers, a 3D printing expert who created the 3D printer report Wohlers Report, offered some insight into feasibility of this project. “The Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL has been able to pull it off due to its creative, out-of-the-box thinking, coupled with a willingness to invest in a new concept.” Wohlers reportedly informed Forbes. “I know these guys well and I can say without reservation that they are very bright and ambitious.”
As it currently stands, 3D printing bigger objects can take days, and even small objects on desktop 3D printers take hours to print.
But with the recent partnership between ORNL and Cincinnati Incorporated, it may be just a matter of time until 3D printing reaches the speed it needs for industrial companies to embrace it for mass manufacturing.
“Today’s agreement with Cincinnati Incorporated exemplifies ORNL’s strong commitment to working with industry to move our innovations into real-world applications,” said ORNL Director Thom Mason. “These partnerships come with the potential for significant energy and economic impacts.”