Record breaker: trim-and-drill tool declared world’s largest solid 3D printed structure

A 3D printed tool set for trials at Boeing has been declared a record breaker by Guinness World Records.

3D printed trim tool developed by ORNL and Boeing
3D printed trim tool developed by ORNL and Boeing

The 3D printed trim-and-drill tool, developed by researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, took 30 hours to build using carbon fibre and ABS thermoplastic composite materials.

The 17.5’ long, 5.5’ wide and 1.5’ tall structure will now be tested in building the Boeing 777X passenger jet.

“The existing, more expensive metallic tooling option we currently use comes from a supplier and typically takes three months to manufacture using conventional techniques,” said Leo Christodoulou, Boeing’s director of structures and materials. “Additively manufactured tools, such as the 777X wing trim tool, will save energy, time, labour and production cost and are part of our overall strategy to apply 3D printing technology in key production areas.”

During an awards ceremony held at DOE’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL, where the 1,650lb component was 3D printed on the lab’s Big Area Additive Manufacturing machine, Guinness World Records judge Michael Empric measured the trim tool, proved it exceeded the required minimum of 10.6 cubic feet and announced the new record title.

“The recognition by Guinness World Records draws attention to the advances we’re making in large-scale additive manufacturing composites research,” said Vlastimil Kunc, leader of ORNL’s polymer materials development team. “Using 3D printing, we could design the tool with less material and without compromising its function.”

ORNL said in a statement that once it completes verification testing, Boeing will use the tool in the company’s new production facility in St Louis and provide information back to ORNL on the tool’s performance. The tool will be used to secure the jet’s composite wing skin for drilling and machining before assembly.