New partnership to develop commercial large-scale 3D printing system

(Nanowerk News) The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is partnering with Cincinnati Incorporated, a manufacturer of high quality machine tools located in Harrison, Ohio, to develop a large-scale polymer additive manufacturing (3-D printing) system.
The partnership aims to accelerate the commercialization of a new additive manufacturing machine that can print large polymer parts faster and more cheaply than current technologies. The partnership agreement supports the Department’s Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative to increase the efficiency of the U.S. manufacturing sector and ensure that innovative clean energy technologies continue to be developed in America.
Additive manufacturing, often called 3-D printing, can offer time, energy and cost savings over traditional manufacturing techniques in certain applications, but most 3-D polymer printers on the market today can only fabricate small prototype parts. By building a system that is 200 to 500 times faster and capable of printing polymer components 10 times larger than today’s common additive machines – in sizes greater than one cubic meter – the ORNL-CINCINNATI project could introduce significant new capabilities to the U.S. tooling sector, which in turn supports a wide range of industries. Access to such technology could strengthen domestic manufacturing of highly advanced components for the automotive, aerospace, appliance, robotics and many other industries.
“The Energy Department and its national labs are forging partnerships with the private sector to strengthen advanced manufacturing, foster innovation, and create clean energy jobs for the growing middle class,” said David Danielson, the Energy Department’s Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “Developing innovative manufacturing technologies in America will help ensure that the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow are created here in the United States, putting people to work and building a clean energy economy.”
The cooperative research and development agreement was signed today at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) established at ORNL by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and funded through its Advanced Manufacturing Office. The MDF helps industry develop, demonstrate and adopt new manufacturing technologies that reduce life-cycle energy and greenhouse gas emissions, lower production costs and create new products and opportunities for high-paying jobs.
“When private-sector businesses connect with the tremendous expertise and capabilities of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, everybody wins,” said U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga), who attended Monday’s signing. “That’s not just the company and scientists. Most importantly it’s the American taxpayer, whose investments in the National Laboratory System are so important for driving American competitiveness.”
The project will draw on CINCINNATI’s experience in the design, manufacturing and control of large-scale manufacturing systems, especially laser cutting systems used in metal fabrication. CINCINNATI focuses on manufacturing powdered metal compacting presses, a process used to produce high volume production parts for the automotive industry. The machine tool manufacturer has shipped more than 55,000 machines during its 115 years of operation.
“Cincinnati Incorporated has enjoyed a long working relationship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory,” said CINCINNATI CEO Andrew Jamison. “Over the years we have supplied over 40 metal working machine tools to Oak Ridge and its various subcontractors. As one of the oldest U.S. machine tool manufacturers, with continuous operation since 1898, we view this exciting opportunity as starting a new chapter in our history of serving U.S. manufacturing. Out of this developmental partnership with ORNL, CINCINNATI intends to lead the world in big area additive manufacturing machinery for both prototyping and production.”
The partners will start by incorporating additive manufacturing technology with the machine base of CINCINNATI’s state-of-the-art laser cutting system, creating a prototype, large-scale additive manufacturing system. The research team will then integrate a high-speed cutting tool, pellet feed mechanism and control software into the gantry system to offer additional capabilities.
“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.”