We’ve seen some pretty big polymer 3D printers, but nothing quite as big as the University of Maine’s 3D printer with a 22,000 ft³ (623 m³) build volume. It holds the Guinness World Record for the largest polymer 3D printer, and with that size comes some interesting challenges and advantages.
You might have already seen the video of it printing an entire patrol boat hull in a single piece, and would have noticed how it printed at a 45° angle. Due to the sheer weight and thermal mass of the print bead, it cannot bridge more than an inch, since it’ll just sag. A 45° overhang angle is about all it can manage, but since the layers can be tilted at that angle, it ends up being able to print horizontal roofs with no support. A 10 mm nozzle is used and the extruded line ends up being 12.5 mm in diameter with a 5 mm layer height. The boat mentioned above was printed with carbon ABS, but it can reportedly use almost any thermoplastic. It looks like the extruder is a screw extruder from an injection moulding machine, and is likely fed with pellets, which is a lot more practical than filament at this scale. Check out the video below by [Paul Bussiere] who works in the Advanced Structures & Composites Center at the University. He also does a very interesting interview with his boss, [James M. Anderson].