This huge liquid-metal 3D printer has been loaded onto a Navy ship

The massive ElemX printer by Xerox can print liquid aluminum in three dimensions, enabling the USS Essex to make custom creations.

Published Jul 24, 2022 8:31 AM CDT   |   Updated Mon, Aug 15 2022 10:25 AM CDT
1 minute & 17 seconds read time

The United States Navy's USS Essex has been equipped with a brand-new ElemX printer made by Xerox.

The printer weighs 4,630 pounds (2,100 kilograms) and was lifted via crane onto the vessel while in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It measures 9 feet (2.7 meters) wide and 7 feet (2.1 meters) tall, The printer itself resides within a large CONEX box, adding up to a total weight of around 15,000 pounds (6,803 kilograms), and measuring about 20 feet (6.1 meters) long. Unlike a conventional printer that prints ink, the ElemX prints from spools of aluminum wire.

"The wire gets fed into the heated print head. The print head gets to 850 Celsius [1,564 Fahrenheit], which essentially melts the wire, so you get this liquid pool of metal. And then we activate pulses on the print head, and eject [metal], drop by drop, to build the part," said Tali Rosman, the head of Elem Additive at Xerox.

The printer requires a 480-volt power supply and allows operators aboard the ship to print custom parts as necessary. The print head does not move; instead, a plate beneath the print head moves around to allow the part to form on top of it. When printing is complete, the plate and the part are submerged in water to separate them. The printing process is not yet simple enough that any sailor can begin printing without training; instead, they must follow a three-day training program first.

Check out this playlist from Elem Additive for more information about the ElemX printer.

This huge liquid-metal 3D printer has been loaded onto a Navy ship 02
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Adam grew up watching his dad play Turok 2 and Age of Empires on a PC in his computer room, and learned a love for video games through him. Adam was always working with computers, which helped build his natural affinity for working with them, leading to him building his own at 14, after taking apart and tinkering with other old computers and tech lying around. Adam has always been very interested in STEM subjects, and is always trying to learn more about the world and the way it works.

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