In the news, you find stories about 3D printing technologies all the time. Surgeons can print implants that save lives, and other professionals use the technology to create prototypes of products that make life simpler. It isn’t every day that you come across a story about world records in 3D printing, but this one is a mind-blower.
The Record-Breaking Event
On September 30, 2015, architects Xu Feng and Yu Lei unveiled “The Vulcan” at the Parkview Green office and shopping center in Beijing, China. The massive and breathtaking sculpture exemplifies the capabilities of 3D printing with intricate designs and perfect geometric patterns, and, not shockingly, is the largest structure ever created with the use of a 3D printer. It’s something that spectators say you have to see to believe.
The Extraordinary Size
To date, most of the objects created in 3D printers are small enough to hold in your hand. They include things like prototypes for new products, medical devices, and more. The Vulcan, though, measures a whopping 1.24 cubic meters (or 43.8 cubic feet) of material and stands 2.8 meters tall, which is just over nine feet. It truly is a huge structure, and printing it was no easy feat.
Putting Things into Perspective
Of course, the entire structure was not created in one go. It took 20 3D printing machines 30 days to complete each of the several units that make up The Vulcan, and project volunteers transported each piece to the site. Once there, it took 15 people a total of 12 days to put the structure together completely. The Guinness Book of World Records crew was on the scene at the unveiling to measure the structure and make the world record official.
China is home to some of the world’s largest 3D printers, so it comes as no surprise that this country was the first to hold the record for the world’s largest 3D printed structure. Before, other companies impressed the public by printing things like bicycles, furniture, and even entire walls. One Chinese company, Southern Fan Co., reports that it is currently building a 3D printer that could theoretically print metal objects up to 18 feet (six meters) in diameter. This means that China may be the first to print the entire frame of any four-wheeled car on Earth with little trouble.
The Future of 3D Printing
The unveiling of the complex Vulcan in Beijing just goes to show that we have not even begun to embrace the full potential of 3D printing and the impact that it could eventually have on the global economy. Right now in China, companies are successfully printing titanium alloy parts – actual parts, not prototypes – for use in nuclear power plants, satellites, and even rockets designed to travel into space. The printer also creates things like landing gear for jets and even parts of aircraft frames with unsurpassed precision.
The Vulcan is truly a work of art, and it is a stunning reminder that 3D technology has come a long way – and still has a long way to go. Before long, you may be driving a car that was printed in a warehouse according to your custom order. You just never know.
Source: Guinness World Records Images: Laboratory for Creative Design