MELD Unveils 3PO 3D Metal Printer

New printer combines additive and subtractive technology into one hybrid machine.

New printer combines additive and subtractive technology into one hybrid machine.

3PO, named after the Star Wars droid, features a MELD additive system with an integrated subtractive head. Image courtesy of MELD Manufacturing.

MELD debuted its newest machine, 3PO, at Formnext 2022 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. It features a MELD additive system with an integrated subtractive head independent of the additive portion. It has a large amount of cubic build space while eliminating the need for a separate subtractive machine, according to the company.

3PO, named after Star Wars droids like the other MELD printers, has a print capacity of 157.5x106.0x39.4-in. (4,000x2,700x1.000 mm) with a print volume of 380 ft3 (10.8m3). It offers continuous printing capability for large-scale parts.

The subtractive capabilities include a standard three-axis head, with an optional five-axis head. With a maximum travel speed of 475 inches/minute (12 m/minute) parts can be in service quickly and efficiently.

The MELD process is a no-melt, open atmosphere technology capable of printing large metal parts. It yields isotropic, fully dense parts with low residual stresses. Because it is a no-melt process even un-weldable metals can be printed. MELD parts can be printed in hours or days.

The MELD technology is suited to address several challenges facing the defense sector along with other industries:

  • Supply chain disruptions caused by scarcity of metal spare parts
  • Excessive repair and rework backlog caused by long lead times for backordered parts
  • Lost operational availability caused by stress fractures and metal fatigue to equipment

“In response to customer demand, we’ve increased the size of parts possible with MELD, and added subtractive functionally to machine in features throughout the build,” states CEO Nanci Hardwick.

Though 3PO is the first MELD commercial off the shelf hybrid machine, it’s not the first machine that MELD has been involved in that includes subtractive capabilities. The MELD technology is being deployed in a machine for the U.S. Army’s Jointless Hull Program. This metal printer incorporates additive and subtractive capabilities with a print volume of 20x30x12-ft. (6.1x9.1x3.7 m).

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website. 

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