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Trim tool measured
Guinness World Records’ judge, Michael Empric, measures the trim tool to verify its record-setting dimensions. (Credit: ORNL)

A trim-and-drill tool that will be tested during construction of the Boeing Co.’s next-generation 777X jet has already produced something notable: recognition from Guinness World Records as the world’s largest solid 3-D-printed object.

The trim tool, developed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, was made in only 30 hours using carbon fiber and ABS thermoplastic composite materials. It’s 17.5 feet long, 5.5 feet wide and 1.5 feet tall, and weighs about 1,650 pounds.

After Oak Ridge completes verification testing, the tool will get its tryout at a Boeing production facility in St. Louis, Mo. It’ll be used to secure the jet’s composite wing for drilling and machining before assembly.

777X production is due to begin next year, with the first delivery targeted for 2020. Boeing says it has more than 300 orders for the two variants of the 777X, known as the 777-8 and the 777-9.

If the 3-D-printed tool satisfies Boeing’s needs, that’s expected to reduce the company’s costs.

“The existing, more expensive metallic tooling option we currently use comes from a supplier and typically takes three months to manufacture using conventional techniques,” Leo Christodoulou, Boeing’s director of structures and materials, explained today in a news release. “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 3-D printing technology in key production areas.”

Oak Ridge’s experimental 3-D printing project is supported by the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy – Advanced Manufacturing Office. The tool was printed on the Big Area Additive Manufacturing machine in Oak Ridge’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility.

During today’s ceremony at the lab, Guinness judge Michael Empric used a tape measure to verify that the 3-D-printed tool exceeded 0.3 cubic meters, or about 10.6 cubic feet, the minimum volume required for the record.

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