Being shown this week at a construction expo is Project AME (Additive Manufactured Excavator), the world’s first 3D printed excavator, which was developed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Knoxville, Tennessee. A team of talented students from the University of Illinois had won a competition to design the cab (the section where the driver sits) of a 3D printed excavator, which was already under development in preparation for this year’s CONEXPO-CON/AGG and IFPE (International Fluid Power Exposition). A few months later, ORNL was so satisfied with AME (and its student-designed, 3D printed cab), it suggested it could be used to build a colony on Mars. The completed 3D printed excavator has now been shown to the general public for the first time at CONEXPO-CON/AGG, an international construction trade show taking place in Las Vegas.
The idea for AME, the 3D printed excavator, came about when members of the CCEFP (Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power) visited ORNL in 2014 and saw a 3D printed car on display. Inspired by that feat of engineering, the CCEFP members discussed the possibility of using additive manufacturing for their own project in the fluid power and mobile equipment industry. The idea for AME was thus born. ORNL worked with “numerous partners in industry, government, and academia” to bring the project to fruition, while a consortium of research teams that are part of the CCEFP contributed additional design and engineering work for the project.