University of Maine sets New World Record by unveiling the largest polymer 3D printer

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UMaine unveils the largest polymer 3D printer
UMaine unveils the largest polymer 3D printer/Source: University of Maine

The University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Centre, an independent research unit, has unveiled the world’s largest polymer 3D printer, breaking the Guinness World Record in both size and speed. This new technology transforms production capabilities in industries such as construction and aerospace, allowing for the creation of large-scale components faster than ever before.

The new printer, known as Factory of the Future 1.0 (FoF 1.0), was unveiled on April 23 at the Advanced Structures and Composites Centre (ASCC) to an audience that included representatives from the United States Department of Defence, the United States Department of Energy, the Maine State Housing Authority, industry partners, and other stakeholders who intend to use the technology.

FoF 1.0 is the Largest polymer 3D printer

Factory of the Future 1.0
FoF 1.0 is the largest polymer 3D printer in the world/Source: University of Maine

The thermoplastic polymer printer is capable of printing objects up to 96 feet long, 32 feet wide, and 18 feet tall at a rate of 500 pounds per hour. It provides new opportunities for environmentally friendly and cost-effective manufacturing in a variety of industries, including national security, affordable housing, bridge construction, ocean and wind energy technologies, and maritime vessel fabrication.

This world-first printer and hybrid manufacturing system was designed and built with funding from the Office of the Secretary of Defence and the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

FoF 1.0 is more than just a large-scale printer; it can switch between processes like large-scale additive manufacturing, subtractive manufacturing, continuous tape layup, and robotic arm operations. Access to it, as well as MasterPrint, the ASCC’s first world-record breaking 3D printer, will help to streamline manufacturing innovation research at the centre. The two large printers can collaborate by using the same end-effectors or working on the same component.

“UMaine and the Advanced Structures and Composites Center possess the innovation, capacity, and workforce to support the future needs of the Department of Defense in advanced manufacturing.”

– U.S. Senator Susan Collins

Collins continued, “This is a great day for our University, our State, and our Nation. I congratulate President Joan Ferrini-Mundy and Dr. Habib Dagher on another important milestone and look forward to witnessing this Center’s continued innovation that is invaluable to our national security.”

Opening up New Research Frontiers

Since fiscal year 2022, Senator Collins, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Subcommittee on Defence, has secured more than $93 million for this initiative and other defence projects at the ASCC. 

“FoF 1.0 opens up new research frontiers to integrate these collaborative robotics operations at a very large scale with new sensors, high-performance computing and artificial intelligence to create born-certified systems that meet high quality standards.”

– Habib Dagher, Executive Director, Advanced Structures and Composites Center

Dagher added, “We are grateful for Senator Collins’ support, for support from Maine’s congressional delegation and for collaborations with the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Labs, Maine Housing and our industry partners here in Maine and beyond.”   

UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy with Heidi Shyu, and chief technology officer for the Department of Defense
(From left to right) Heidi Shyu CTO for the Department of Defense with UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy/Source: University of Maine

The one-of-a-kind printer will support a variety of initiatives, including the development of biobased feedstocks derived from Maine’s abundant wood residuals. This technology will accelerate commercialization efforts like BioHome3D and the development of sustainable, affordable housing, while also propelling critical technological advancements for national security, particularly in lightweight, rapidly deployable structures and vessel technologies.

“The Department of Defense has been advancing composites and manufacturing technologies with the University of Maine ASCC for nearly two decades. The latest innovations in manufacturing, composite technologies and materials coming from our universities have and will continue to be instrumental to the security and economic vitality of the U.S. and its allies and partners worldwide.”

– Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering (OUSD (R&E)) and chief technology officer for the Department of Defense

UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy expressed, “This new capability not only reinforces UMaine’s Carnegie R1 research designation, but also reaffirms our standing as leaders in composite materials research and advanced manufacturing. With the participation of different departments, faculty, students and university partners, today stands as a testament to UMaine’s commitment to collaborative excellence. It not only empowers us to nurture the leaders of tomorrow, but also ignites growth and prosperity within Maine’s local industries and across the national stage.”

The FoF 1.0 unveiling comes ahead of this summer’s planned ground breaking for a new 47,000-square-foot research laboratory known as the Green Engineering and Materials (GEM) Factory of the Future. The facility, which is set to break ground in August, is designed to boost manufacturing innovation across multiple sectors.

About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D Printing. Visit our Tech News page for more updates on Global 3D Printing News. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Abhimanyu Chavan is the founder of Manufactur3D Magazine. He writes on Additive Manufacturing technology, interviews industry leaders, shares industry insights, and expresses his thoughts on the latest developments in the industry. You can follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.
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