Design Engineering

Researchers develop the world’s largest solid 3D printed tool for aircraft manufacturing


Additive Manufacturing Aerospace 3D printing ORNL tooling

The tool took only 30 hours to print using carbon fiber and ABS thermoplastic composite materials.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have something to celebrate. The department developed a 3D printed trim-and-drill tool that has received the title of largest solid 3D printed item by Guinness World Records.

ORNL Boeing 3D printing toolingThe tool took only 30 hours to print using carbon fiber and ABS thermoplastic composite materials. Aerospace giant Boeing will be testing the effectiveness of the tool for its Boeing 777X passenger jet.

At 17.5 feet long, 5.5 feet wide and 1.5 feet tall, the 3D printed structure is comparable in length to a large sport utility vehicle and weighs approximately 1,650 pounds.

Boeing is currently using other tooling options that are much more expensive and takes approximately the months for suppliers to manufacture with conventional techniques.


“Additively manufactured tools, such as the 777X wing trim tool, will save energy, time, labor and production cost and are part of our overall strategy to apply 3D printing technology in key production areas,” explains Leo Christodoulou, Boeing’s director of structures and materials.

The new tooling component was printed at DOE’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL. The lab has a Big Area Additive Manufacturing machine and Guinness World Record judge Michael Empric measured the trim tool, proved it exceeded the required minimum of 0.3 cubic meters, or approximately 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.”

Boeing is expected to use the additively manufactured trim-and-drill tool in its new production facility in St. Louis. The tool will be used to secure the jet’s composite wing skin for drilling and machining before assembly. The aerospace giant will then provide ORNL feedback on the tool’s performance.


Stories continue below

Print this page

Related Stories