First 3-D printed excavator made at ORNL

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OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- 3-D printing is turning imagination into reality. The creative minds at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are thinking big with their newest printing projects.

What looks like a normal excavator was actually recently created with a 3-D printer.

"It demonstrates the art of what's possible," ORNL's Brian Post said. "So this is a new capability and opens other avenues for research."

It's the first-ever excavator made with a printer right here in our backyard.

"We've gone from plastics to composites, and that's allowed us to do more functional parts, and now we're getting into metals," Post said of the revolutionary printing method.

The stick was printed with metal, the cab was made with composite material like Legos and the heat exchanger was made out of metal.

Post took Local 8 News inside where they printed the excavator. They have several 3-D printers where they have the capability to make anything they want.

"This is just one area," Post said. "We've also built cars and houses and submarines for the Navy."

ORNL has joined with other companies nationwide to produce the items. Their ideas and their work space has expanded.

"We're talking about bigger work spaces," Post said. "Used to you could only print things the size of shoe box, but now you can print things the size of a room."

So the possibilities are endless.

There are 13 3-D printers like the ones at ORNL being used for similar types of projects, including some in aerospace and automotive companies.