While most of our 3D printers feature only minute building spaces, various manufacturers are racing towards large scale 3D printing technologies for applications as diverse as building houses to bridges. And it looks like that upcoming market is about to welcome another participant, as Italian machine manufacturer Prima Power is considering to enter the large scale additive metal manufacturing market.

You might know Prima Power as a multinational developer of construction machines (part of Prima Industrie) with offices and distributors all over the world. They are also a very ambitious company, as their 3D printing goals illustrate. They are set to develop a powder deposition-based 3D printing method to manufacture large and complex parts on a very large scale – the goal is to 3D print 2000 cm3 of materials every hour, all of which are intended to be incorporated into machines.

This ambitious goal was unveiled at the AM Conference in Cecimo by the company’s CEO Ezio Basso, and is set to be a multi-party collaboration called the Borealis project. Funding is partly provided by European funds, with the project expected to cost eight million euros over a period of three years. Among the parties involved are the Dutch research organization TNO, the German Fraunhofer, Siemens, the Polytechnical University of Turin, laser manufacturers Coherent and Italian aviation company GE Avio. The latter company is a 3D metal printing subsidiary of GE.One of the goals behind the Borealis project is sustainable production. Ezio Basso: ‘We believe that sustainable production is one of the business drivers, with laser technology being a key enabler of sustainable technological growth.’

The participants in the project are set to develop an entire new 3D metal printing technology, that essentially combines five additive manufacturing techniques into a single machine. The basis will be a portal machine attached to a hexapod head with multiple nozzles. This setup should be able to process 2000 cm3 of materials in just an hour, with material switches taking just 30 seconds. ‘We want to prove that we can overcome the current limitations of 3D printing technologies that use metal components,’ Basso argues. This setup will also rely on special software that can automatically cope with production errors and optimize energy and material use.
Basso further revealed that, though metal 3D printing is improving, they haven’t yet reached their goal. They are currently able to 3D print large parts (with maximum size being 1500 mm in length) at 300 grams per hour, far away from their ambitious goals. Smaller components, meanwhile, can be 3D printed with up to 700 grams per hour. Basso and his collaborators are instead eying a very impressive 2 kilograms per hour and components of up to 200 mm in length.
When asked about progress, Basso revealed that they expect more details about the viability of this project in the near future. ‘We as Prima Industry want to make a decision about getting into the 3D printing market by the middle of 2016. By that time, the technology should have progressed a long way,’ he says. They, however, already planning to build a scale model by that time, with a working industrial prototype being planned for 2019. It looks like we will be hearing a lot more from Prima Power in the near future.

Via 3ders