Published on: Apr 17, 2017

The latest innovation in the 3D printing industry, known as Project AME or Additive Manufactured Excavator has been getting a lot of attention from industry stakeholders. The new AME innovation, to be demonstrated at ConExpo 2017, will offer new ideas on the unrealized potential of integrating 3D printing in the production of construction equipment. It has an outstanding design in which the boom has unprecedented integration with the power of fluid as it is printed with smooth fluid flow passages.

There have been many breakthroughs in additive manufacturing but none of those are as important as Project AME because such a process was never successfully tried in the equipment industry before. This is the first time that 3D printed steel was used to produce large scale construction machinery which is a milestone. Right now it is not clear how this will impact the construction equipment industry in the short term but the trend in the medium term seems unmistakable; additive manufacturing or 3D printing will have a crucial role to play in this segment of the industry.

Using additive manufacturing technologies, research teams are working to reduce the overall size of the excavator and making it more efficient. This will provide the machine with a much better cooling system, heat exchanger and a highly adaptive hydraulic oil reservoir. Research teams are also working on the boom and the bucket design with an integrated hydraulics system which will lower the weight of the excavator, reduce manufacturing and subsequent maintenance costs.

Additive manufacturing is here to stay in the construction equipment manufacturing industry. In this case the entire excavator is not 3D printed and only the most integral design components have been manufactured using this method. It would not have been possible for the researchers to make these improvements in the design components without 3D printing since conventional manufacturing methods lack the precision and efficiency needed to pursue such designs.

Additive Manufacturing or AM is a technology that builds 3D objects by adding layer-upon-layer of material, which could be plastic, metal, concrete or any other special alloy. AM technology uses 3D modeling software (Computer Aided Design or CAD), machine equipment and layering material. The CAD sketch is critically important and only after it is created, does the AM equipment become operational. Thereafter, it lays down or adds successive layers of liquid, powder, sheet material, etc. in a layer-upon-layer fashion to fabricate a 3D object.