The University of Maine has the largest 3D printer in the world, capable of producing objects up to 100 feet long by 22 feet wide by 10 feet high.
“This 3D printer is an outgrowth of research we have been doing for 15 years in combining cellulosic nano and micro fibers with thermoplastic materials,” said Habib Dagher, the center’s founding executive director. “Our goal is to print with 50% wood products at 500 pounds per hour, and achieve properties similar to aluminum.”
...To demonstrate its capabilities, the center had printed a 25-foot, 5,000-pound patrol boat. It’s the largest 3D-printed object in the world. Christened 3Dirigo, its hull form was developed by Navatek, a global ship design firm with an office in Portland, and a UMaine Composites Center industrial partner. The boat was printed over the course of three days, from Sept. 19 to 22.
In his 1956 classic short story Pay for the Printer, science fiction author Philip K. Dick wrote about large alien creatures who were able to duplicate any human object, from a pocket watch to a car. They were physically huge, of course, big enough to duplicate a full-size automobile. Or maybe a boat.
The Biltong was dying. Huge and old, it squatted in the center of the settlement park...
On the concrete platform, in front of the dying Biltong, lay a heap of originals to be duplicated. Beside them, a few prints had been commenced, unformed balls of black ash mixed with the moisture of the Biltong's body, the juice from which it laboriously constructed its prints.
(Read more about Biltong Lifeform)
The Biltong laboriously recreated objects using some of their own substance, mixed with chemical ash. Printed objects were physically similar, even if they were made of different materials.
“In my kitchen I had that whole set of stainless steel carving knives — the best Swedish steel. And now they’re nothing but black ash.”
Interestingly, the University of Maine 3D printer also uses basic elements, a special kind of cellulose, mixed with plastic, that is stronger than steel.
Cellulose nano fiber is cellulose that has been broken down to a scale of nanometers, or billionths of a meter. Placing cellulose nano fiber into plastics results in strong, stiff and recyclable bio-derived material that becomes filament in the 3D printer...
Nano cellulose is stronger than steel and stiffer than Kevlar, said Moe Khaleel, associate laboratory director for Energy and Environmental Sciences at Oak Ridge...
If the Biltong was old or careless, the printed object might eventually decompose into useless ash - Phil Dick invented a word for it: puddinged.