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ORNL Big Area AM machine ORNL
The Big Area Additive Manufacturing machine at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Oak Ridge, Lincoln Electric Aim for Large-Scale Metal 3DP

Collaborative effort will expand developments to new materials, apply more data, and implement manufacturing for AM parts in excess of 100 lb/hour

The Dept. of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Lincoln Electric Corp. agreed to extend their collaborative effort on large-scale, robotic additive manufacturing technology. The partners indicated they will expand their additive technology developments to new materials, apply more analytical data, and implement rapid manufacturing of AM metal parts in excess of 100 pounds per hour.

Metal additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, generally describes processes like metal-laser sintering (working from powder metal) and fused deposition modeling (working with an alloy wire feed), which convert CAD data into three-dimensional parts. It is used commercially to produce precision parts in volume (e.g., fuel nozzles) or high-value custom parts (dies, molds.)

"Approximately 60-80% of molds for the manufacturing of metallic components are produced overseas," explained ORNL associate laboratory director Moe Khaleel. "With this new collaboration, U.S. manufacturers will be able to showcase their ability to manufacture tools, dies and molds additively with reduced costs and lead times while maintaining speed and a quality build."

Oak Ridge first implemented large-area additive manufacturing in 2014, installing a Cincinnati Inc. system with a build area of 20x8x6 ft. That system was used by ORNL to build a 17.5x5.5x1.5-fit "trim-and-drill tool" in carbon fiber and ABS thermoplastic component, over 30 hours. It was recognized as the largest, solid 3D-printed product by Guiness World Records, and tested for the Boeing 777X program.

A second Cincinnati Inc. system was installed in 2017, with a build area of 13x6.5x8 ft.

Lincoln Electric co-developed with Mazak Corp. an AM technology called "Hot Wire" that involves high-speed laser-melting of a metal wire to form CAD-defined structures. It’s part of the VC-500A/5X AM HWD hybrid manufacturing system that Mazak offers, for applications that call for adding a structural element (with similar or dissimilar materials) to a machined component to create a near-net shape part, or to repair high-value parts (e.g., impellers, turbine blades, tooling and die parts.)

According to Lincoln Electric’s SVP for technology and R&D, Tom Matthews: "We have successfully partnered with the Manufacturing Demonstration Team at ORNL over the last three years to develop industry-leading metal additive technologies," said Tom Matthews, Lincoln Electric senior vice president for technology and R&D. "Together, we will continue to advance the technical boundaries of additive manufacturing as Lincoln Electric commercializes this innovative manufacturing capability, which will benefit a broad array of manufacturing sectors."

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