There is no doubt the way we are building homes, bridges, and roadways is changing. There’s more influence on technology than ever, and the newer use of 3D technology is simply no different. What if you didn’t have to wait for parts to be manufactured, receive them, and then find out they were just a fraction off in size? With the precision, speed, and quality of 3D printing, even the most complex and innovative structures can be created. Take a look at some of the most impressive projects taking place now (not in the future) using this technology.

A 3D Printed Construction Excavator

Perhaps the most impressive finished project today is the recent completion of a 3D printed, construction excavator. This is not just a toy and not for small projects. Rather, it is a fully functional excavator usable on large scale projects of all types. More so, it is considered the first project of its kind using high-quality steel to create the precision machinery. The excavator hasn’t been out in the backfield just yet, but it is getting some attention at the CONEXPCON/AGG and IFPE 2017 conventions that will take place in March of 2017.

The excavator project was built through a combined effort from a number of agencies including the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power, the National Fluid Power Association, the National Science Foundation and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It all began through the research conducted at The University of Minnesota and Georgia Tech. Students there were tasked with taking a current design and then creating a new excavator by implementing 3D technology throughout it.

The question many want to know, though, is why? What can this technology offer? On this specific project, the students were able to achieve a number of successes by manufacturing the machinery out of 3D technology. First, the students at Georgia Tech created a boom and bucket that had fully functional hydraulics. The goal was to design these systems to be lighter in weight, less expensive to manufacturer (with lower costing materials) and more efficient maintenance. Additionally, students from the University of Minnesota focused on creating a heat exchanger and hydraulic oil reservoir alongside a large scale cooling system that all worked to improve the efficiency of the excavator by reducing the overall size and weight of the system.

Even better, when the excavator hits the convention floor, not only will it be on full display, but the teams will be working to build a second one live on the floor. This will help to showcase how the technology works in applications like this.