Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory opens new 3D printing manufacturing facility

LIVERMORE, Calif. (KGO) -- The Bay Area Lab famous for designing nuclear warheads is branching out into a public-private partnership using advanced 3D printers to create and perfect techniques that can be used by the industry.

ABC7 News got a tour of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's new Advanced Manufacturing Lab is a 14,000 square foot, $10 million dollar facility next to the high-security weapons lab.

The AML was just dedicated to a mission of partnering with private businesses to develop and prove technology here, which can then be manufactured on a massive scale by industry.

Since they were made on advanced 3D printers, there is often more to them than meets the eye.

Researcher Bryan Moran showed us an innocent-looking bunny, about the size of a large marble.

"We all like bunnies but this is made of octet trusses," Moran said.

Like microscopic versions of the incredibly strong trusses that hold up the Bay Bridge, "It's very strong for its size," Moran said.

That means you can test the strength of the trusses by building a tiny version without the expense of a full-sized one, saving industry a lot of money.

One area didn't seem like traditional 3D printing at all. Instead of using machinery, the printer uses light to form a solid item inside a container of liquid resin.

You start by scanning a 3d picture of what you want to make into a kind of slice by slice movie, "and put them into a project and that projector beams that movie into a vial of light-sensitive resin" said Dr. Maxim Shusteff.

Two minutes later the item forms and you pour the remaining liquid off.

The industry loves the facility because they don't have to pay for so much research and development.

"They help us develop the next products to do complicated manufacturing applications," says RJ Hardt of the engineering company Aerotech Inc.

Researchers love science and the fact that their tech could one day change the world.

We visited one station where there are printing filters that could one day recycle greenhouse gases into fuel. The lab is hoping that tech is ready for development in five years.
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