Stratasys, DOE partner for 3D additive manufacturing, lightweight materials


Minneapolis, MN -- Stratasys and the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have announced a joint initiative to develop fused deposition modeling (FDM) additive manufacturing for production use.

The partnership, leveraging ORNL's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF), aims to develop FDM additive manufacturing technology into a mainstream manufacturing process, focusing on two main objectives: Develop in-process inspection to assure part quality and suitability for service; and develop carbon fiber-reinforced FDM feedstock materials to produce strong, lightweight components.

For the DOE, developing those new lighter materials is a way to reduce energy usage in US industry. The additive manufacturing process is more efficient than traditional subtractive manufacturing processes, such as machining parts or machining production tools and molds. "It reduces material consumption, waste streams, large investments into metal tooling, warehouse costs, and transportation costs," notes Jeff DeGrange, Stratasys VP of direct digital manufacturing. "You don’t have to bring in material just to machine 75 percent of it away as with traditional manufacturing."

Beyond reducing energy use in the process itself, additive manufacturing of lighter-weight materials has a direct application in transportation. Reducing a commercial aircraft's weight by 500 pounds, for example, would save about $250,000 each year in fuel costs. "The initiative with Oak Ridge presents a significant opportunity, particularly in the aerospace and automotive industries, to enable lightweight high performance products to reach the market quicker and at lower costs," adds DeGrange.

Carbon fiber aircraft access door. (Source: Stratasys)

In this video, two of the partners' representatives -- ORNL's Lonnie Love, distinguished research scientist and group leader for automation, robotics, and manufacturing, and Jeff DeGrange, Stratasys VP of direct digital manufacturing -- describe the impetus and planned outcomes of the partnership, from bringing products to marketplace more quickly and improving US competitiveness.