A project that might inform the transformation of heavy equipment manufacturing has borne its first fruits with the first successful 3D printing of an excavator cab.
With the appearance of an alien spacecraft, the cab was designed by a student engineering team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The design is based on the Voronoi Pattern, a composition inspired by cell and microarchitecture known for providing structural rigidity to 3D-printed objects. The design team includes Jowon Kim, Sharon Tsubaki, Luke Meyer, Naomi Audet and Andrew Peterman.
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The cab is only the first of several key excavator components that will be printed using equipment at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A heat exchanger and the excavator’s boom will also be printed at Oak Ridge. The boom will be fabricated using a new free-form 3D printing technique developed for large-scale metal printing.
The excavator, which will be the first large scale use of steel in 3D printing, is two years in the making and is known as Project AME (Additive Manufacturing Excavator). It is a collaboration between the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA), the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
A team at Georgia Team is heading up the design of the 3D-printed excavator’s boom stick and bucket while a team at the University of Minnesota is designing the aluminum-powder bed oil cooler design. Since this is the first time a machine this large has been 3D-printed, the process required to print each component is being developed by researchers at Oak Ridge.
Once complete, the Project AME excavator will be on display at ConExpo-Con/AGG 2017 as part of the show’s new tech experience.