University of Maine plans “Factory of the Future” to research advanced manufacturing

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 5:53 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ORONO, Maine (WABI) - The University of Maine is likely to receive a big financial boost to support research into the next generation of manufacturing.

Senator Susan Collins says 35-million dollars is earmarked in the draft of the 2022 appropriations bill for the initiative.

Dr. Habib Dagher, Executive Director of the Advanced Structures & Composites Center, says ”The goal is to build the research factory of the future.”

Researchers at the University of Maine area well known for the work they do in the Advanced Structures and Composites Center.

In 2019 they earned a world record for the worlds largest 3d printed boat. Now they’re looking ahead to what they can do with $35 million in federal funding in the field of additive manufacturing.

“The focus here is to have multiple printers, multiple robots working together as a team to build something.” says Dr. Dagher. “All coordinated by AI, all coordinated by advanced robotics.”

Affordability, speed, and sustainability are all potential benefits of manufacturing using this method.

“Imagine a day when you want a 100 foot yacht and you send the drawings out to the factory and then come and pick it up in a few days.”

Printing entire homes isn’t out of the question.

“We have close to 20,000 low income housing units that are needed in Maine. They cost close to $200,000 for a 600 square foot unit. Can we drive the cost down?”

“There’s not enough labor to build homes. There’s not enough materials to build homes. Can we do that more effectively using additive manufacturing and 3d printing?”

The material used in the 3d printing process is wood-based, and could potentially be recycled and printed again. Consider grinding up an old home and then printing out a new one with the same material.

“It’s a vision to try to transform the way we build homes. It’s not going to happen overnight.”

That vision includes more than just robotics, AI, and printers.

“At the end of the day what this is going to do also is help train students for the next generation of manufacturing technologies.” says Dr. Dagher. “Once we develop these factories of the future, who’s going to run them? The factory is going to help us spawn other factories that will be built in Maine.”

The factory itself is a planned expansion of the existing Advanced Structures and Composites Center, up to 92,000 square feet in size.

Copyright 2021 WABI. All rights reserved.