(DoD Photo) 3D printed construction

The last 5 years have been an exciting time for Large Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM). Although LSAM is a newly emerging niche area for Additive Manufacturing (AM), the use cases have huge potential. From houses on Mars to tooling, ship hulls and aerospace parts, it is exciting to see what is next for LSAM.

LSAM typically refers to 3D printers with build volumes larger than the 15-20 cm cubed dimensions commonly found in desktop 3D printers. Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) can create parts of up to 6 x 2.4 x 2 m. The most common LSAM technology is material extrusion/deposition similar to Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) used in desktop polymer 3D printers.

The aerospace and construction industries are two industries currently benefiting the most from LSAM. In 2021 the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center was awarded $2.8 million from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to develop a rapid, low-cost AM solution for fabricating large, segmented wind blade molds. 

In 2021 ASTRO America was selected to manage a new U.S. Army initiative to develop and deliver the largest metal additive manufacturing 3D printer capable of printing a seamless hull in what is known as the Jointless Hull project. MetalTech news describes the advantages of a jointless hull, “Hulls built as a single unit, called monolithic hulls, for combat vehicles have well-established advantages in survivability and weight savings – yet traditional manufacturing processes are not cost-effective or adaptable to full production of these kinds of plating.”

As LSAM technology develops and matures we see additively manufactured construction having huge potential to construct dwelling in new, fast and affordable ways. ICON, a company that develops advanced construction technologies using proprietary 3D printing robotics, software and advanced materials, has taken the lead in additively manufactured housing. They partnered with the DoD to build 5700 square feet of training barracks and have many other AM construction projects. One of the most exciting LSAM projects is ICON’s future space exploration habitats. In 2021 the first Simulated Mars Surface Habitat for NASA was printed. These habitats have the potential to be 3D printed on Mars with additive construction technology to eliminate the need to launch large quantities of building materials on multiple flights, which is cost prohibitive.

ICON 3D printed Mars habitat

Most LSAM machines use G-code commands or a variation of G-code to instruct the 3D printers on how to print a part in the same way as desktop 3D printers. These large scale machines are subject to the same cybersecurity threats as smaller 3D printers. It might seem far-fetched to think about cybersecurity issues with 3D printers constructing habitats on Mars but it is important to consider these implications now so that we can be prepared for the future. It is important to continuously monitor printing processes so that we can maintain part quality, trust in the printed product and the printing technology. In DoD/secure applications we especially need to have visibility into the process to know that what we want to print is what we have printed and no cyber sabotage has taken place. BISON provides visibility into the printing process, giving users information about their prints based on G-code diff and adding valuable information to the verification and quality assurance process.

If you are interested in learning more about securing Additive Manufacturing or a demonstration of BreakPoint Lab’s BISON AM solution capability, please contact us at info@breakpoint-labs.com