A new research collaboration between the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will advance efforts to 3D print with wood products, creating a new market for Maine’s forest products industry.
U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, Lamar Alexander and Angus King joined Daniel Simmons, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), as well as leaders from UMaine and ORNL, in Washington, D.C., on May 2 to announce the launch of the large-scale, biobased additive manufacturing program.
The $20 million effort, competitively funded by DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, aims to strengthen regional manufacturing by connecting university–industry clusters with DOE’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) at ORNL. It also recognizes UMaine’s global leadership in composites materials
“This groundbreaking effort builds on more than 20 years of composite materials research, including cellulose-filled-thermoplastic extrusion work by professor Douglas Gardner, structural composites work by professor Roberto Lopez-Anido, and cellulose production by professor Hemant Pendse and his colleagues in chemical and biological engineering,” says the project’s principal investigator Habib Dagher, executive director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center. “Our challenge: Can we cost-effectively print at 500 pounds per hour with 50% microcellulose and nanocellulose, and achieve specific strength and stiffness properties similar to aluminum? Can we use bioresins and biofibers in the process so that the printed composites are green and full recyclable? In other words, can we print with 50% wood by weight?”
ORNL and the UMaine research team will work with the forest products industry to produce new biobased materials that will be conducive to 3D printing a variety of products, such as boat hull molds, shelters, building components, tooling for composites and wind blades. They also will position the industry to print large, structurally demanding systems, including boats.