A 3-D Printed Excavator At ConExpo?

By pdamon06 April 2016

Just about everything involved with mobile construction equipment and the components that go into them has probably been seen at one time or another at ConExpo-Con/Agg & IFPE.

But those attending the event next March in Las Vegas will have the opportunity to witness something that’s never been seen in the long history of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers’ (AEM) triannual event.

As part of AEM’s planned future technologies pavilion, billed as a showcase for innovative and groundbreaking concepts for future mobile machines, the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA) will sponsor Project AME. “AME stands for Additive Manufactured Excavator,” said NFPA CEO Eric Lanke. “And if all goes according to plan, it will be exactly what that sounds like.”

The aim of the project, which is being developed by the fluid power industry coalition that helps direct the activities of the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP), and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is to operate a 3-D printed hydraulic excavator prior to the show, then demonstrate it in operation. There will also be a display of 3-D printing in action, as some of the components of a second excavator will be printed during the show, though that machine will not be finished.

“The goal is not just to print an excavator,” Lanke said, “but to demonstrate the futuristic and beneficial fluid power innovations coming out of the CCEFP.”

This is not the first time that 3-D printing technology’s potential has been demonstrated in a public setting. At the 2014 IMTS show in Chicago, Oak Ridge, teamed with Cincinnati Inc., AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, and Local Motors, a Phoenix-based design, engineering and micro-manufacturing firm, to construct was billed as the world’s first 3-D printed electric car.

At ConExpo-Con/Agg & IFPE 2017, Cincinnati’s newest 3-D metal composite printer will be used to fabricate the working demonstrator, as well as the major components of the second excavator.

“Imagine a boom, printed in one piece, that’s 20% lighter, and stronger than what’s on the market today, with all the fluid flow passages embedded inside the superstructure,” said Lanke. “Imagine a reservoir and a heat exchanger, integrated into one component, and printed directly into the cab.

“And imagine that cab, ergonomic and redesigned with the latest breakthroughs in human interfaces and haptic controls, giving operators the ability to actually “feel” the load they are lifting. These are just three of the ideas already in production, and there may be more surprises to come.”

ConExpo-Con/Agg will be held March 7-11, 2017. Pre-registration is available here.

More information about Project AME will be included in the May issue of Diesel Progress.

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