Friday, June 20, 2014

drag2share: The rise of the super-fast industrial 3D printerOak Ridgeâs monster machine3D Systems bets on the assembly line


3D printers are slow; so slow that in the time it would take to print a screwdriver, you could just drive to the store and pick one up with a half hour to spare. And that's a problem when a manufacturing job calls for creating units as quickly as possible.

And the frustrating thing is that existing 3D printers could technically print faster. It's just a matter of using an extruder that puts out thicker ropes of material, allowing the printer to lay down more material with the same number of movements. But thicker layers means sacrificing the printer's resolution, because the place where one layer ends and the next begins becomes obvious.

So a national lab and a corporation set out in the past year to completely reinvent the concept of the 3D printer. Here's what they are working on.

Oak Ridge's monster machine

Oak Ridge National Laboratory decided to make a faster printer by embracing thicker layers. Using Cincinnati Inc.'s huge BAAM 3D printer, it is working toward a machine that could print 200 to 500 times faster than a standard desktop 3D printer.

A few more details about the Oak Ridge-Cincinnati partnership emerged today on, which reported that BAAM is capable of printing objects as large as tables and chairs by extruding plastic in layers 0.3 inches wide. Chairs recently on display at the RAPID conference each took about 2 hours and 30 minutes to print. On a normal printer, a chair would take days to print and need to be printed in pieces.


The BAAM 3D printer. Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Inc.

The BAAM 3D printer. Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Inc.

The site also reported that Oak Ridge is considering processing 3D printed objects after they are printed so that they appear smooth. This could involve sanding or treating the plastic with a chemical like acetone, which is commonly used to make desktop printed items smooth.

The lab plans to take orders for the machine around the end of the year, according to, and will be capable of producing just a handful every year.