UMaine Unveils World’s Largest 3D Printer With ‘Factory Of The Future 1.0’

Published on April 29, 2024 by Isaac B.

The University of Maine (UMaine) has introduced a significant advancement in manufacturing with the unveiling of its latest innovation: the Factory of the Future 1.0 (FoF 1.0), which constitutes the world’s largest 3D printer. Exceeding the capabilities of its predecessor, the FoF 1.0 represents a significant leap forward in additive manufacturing technology and builds upon UMaine’s previous record-breaking achievements in additive manufacturing.

Last week, presented in front of the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Maine State Housing Authority at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, the FoF 1.0 promises immense potential for an extensive range of applications across various industries. With dimensions allowing it to produce objects up to 96 feet long by 32 feet wide by 18 feet high, and boasting an impressive printing speed of up to 500 pounds per hour, FoF 1.0 is unparalleled in its capacity for large-scale additive manufacturing.

The FoF 1.0, supported by the Office of the Secretary of Defense through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is the result of shared efforts between government, industry, and academia to push the boundaries of manufacturing technologies. Senator Susan Collins, Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Subcommittee on Defense, praised the new technology, highlighting its potential to overcome significant hurdles in national security and housing. Speaking on the FoF 1.0, she stated, “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. This is a great day for our university, our state, and our nation.”

The FoF 1.0 is not just a technological milestone in size and print speed. Its versatility across manufacturing processes, from additive and subtractive manufacturing to continuous tape layup and robotic arm operations, is expected to open new avenues for research and development in manufacturing. This potential for innovation is set to bring about further advancements within the state. ASCC Executive Director Habib Dagher echoed this sentiment, stating, “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.”

An equally significant aspect of this printer is its profound sustainability advantages. By integrating bio-based materials derived from wood residuals found in Maine’s sawmills, the FoF 1.0 harnesses the state’s vast forest resources. Given Maine’s status as being home to one of the largest wood industries in the U.S., this approach significantly enhances sustainability efforts, especially as the state seeks to get ahead of its housing shortage.

Maine needs an estimated 80,000 additional homes by 2030, many specifically for households with incomes at or below the area median income. This new technology allows UMaine-ASCC to scale up its research and production of its innovative biobased 3D printed home technology. This effort creates another means of producing quality affordable housing, while further driving costs down.” Expressed Mark Wiesendanger, Development Director of MaineHousing. To learn more about the FoF 1.0, click here.

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*All Photo Credits: The University of Maine

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