3D Printers

CONEXPO-CON/AGG and IFPE Prepare to Unveil World’s First 3D Printed Steel Excavator

Although size limitations are one of the major setbacks stopping the 3D printing revolution from fully blossoming, that hasn’t stopped companies from implementing the technology into new construction methods. Whether it be the large-scale concrete printer by the Dutch-based company ROHACO, or MX3D printing a steel bridge in Amsterdam, there’s a lot of well-established innovation and untapped potential in using 3D printing for construction-based purposes. Now, CONEXPO-CON/AGG, which is a trade show for the construction industry, and IFPE, a co-located conference dedicated to the integration of fluid power, are preparing to unveil the world’s first fully-functional 3-D printed construction excavator at the upcoming 2017 event.

A traditionally manufactured excavator

“We know our members look forward to seeing the industry’s most innovative technologies at CONEXPO-CON/AGG and IFPE each show year and 2017 will not disappoint. We’re thrilled to bring such a significant technological and first-of-its-kind achievement like the 3-D printed excavator to the show; it will be a platform to demonstrate how the latest innovations and applied technologies are changing the future of construction industry,” said John Rozum, the IFPE show director.

The excavator will be completely 3D printed with steel, making this one of the largest metal-based 3D printing endeavors thus far. The excavator is being designed by a group of graduate engineering students from Georgia Tech and the University of Minnesota, attempting to alter the traditional excavator design to fit with 3D printing technology. The Georgia Tech students will focus on designing a boom and bucket featuring integrated hydraulics, which are meant to decrease the weight, cost, and maintenance of the excavator. The University of Minnesota team, on the other hand, will be designing the hydraulic oil reservoir and cooling system, also with hopes of decreasing the weight of the excavator, and also making it more efficient.

The conference in 2014
The CONEXPO-CON/AGG and IFPE show in 2014

“Technology and innovation will drive change for the future of the construction industry, and we’re excited that students are playing a vital role in bringing the newly designed machine to life,” said Eric Lanke, CEO of the National Fluid Power Association.

A major project like the steel 3D printed excavator requires a lot of hands on deck, and is a joint collaboration between a number of prestigious institutions outside of Georgia Tech and the University of Minnesota, including the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), National Fluid Power Association (NFPA), Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).


And that’s not all… Design-savvy student teams from around the globe can submit 3D designs for the excavator’s cab on the CCEFP website. Judged by a panel of construction industry experts, the winning team will receive $2,000 and a trip to the ORNL in Tennessee, where they will be able to watch their design be 3D printed in steel. The CONEXPO-CON/AGG and IFPE conferences, which take place every three years, will take place at the Las Vegas Convention Center from March 7-11, 2017.