The 3D-printed excavator, known as Project AME (pronounced ‘Amy’), is a joint collaboration between several US organisations – the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA), the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP), the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Tying in with CONEXPO’s theme of ‘Imagine what’s next’, attendees were able to view a demonstration of the 6-tonne excavator digging up dirt on the show floor.
Printed entirely in low cost steel in just five days, Project AME is said to show how multiple 3D printing processes can be used in conjunction with standard materials to produce high quality machinery for the construction industry.
According to reports, the idea to build the excavator had been in the works since 2014, when CCEFP members viewed a 3D-printed car on display at another trade show.
As previously reported by Quarry, the CCEFP received a US National Science Foundation grant for the project, before commissioning the ORNL’s manufacturing demonstration facility to lead the printing of the machine. Funding was then acquired by the USA Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy – Advanced Manufacturing Office.
Graduate engineering students from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois and the University of Minnesota developed the excavator’s cab, work arm, boom, bucket, heat exchanger, cooling system and hydraulic oil reservoir.
Only certain parts of the excavator were 3D-printed – the boom, the cab and the heat exchanger. According to reports, these parts were printed at a rate of 3kg per hour.
The graduate students then witnessed their designs taking shape on the 3D-printing equipment at the DOE’s manufacturing demonstration facility at ORNL.
This kind of technology has the potential to shape the Australian quarrying industry in the years to come, as the potential to produce cheaper product prototypes through 3D printing will likely accelerate innovation in the quarry equipment manufacturing sector.