Last week, Dept. of Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the first time. One of the highlights of his visit was a tour of ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, where the lab has conducted a number of pioneering projects with composite materials.

Perry, who was accompanied by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), got to see a number of composite innovations up close, including ORNL’s Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) technology. The technology, developed with Cincinnati Incorporated, creates 3-D large-scale products up to 10 times larger than currently producible. It also works at speeds 200 to 500 times faster than existing additive machines.

The technology’s use of commodity thermoplastic materials allows manufacturers to reduce costs per part, and the system’s open architecture helps keep material costs low. The technology’s most notable applications include the DOE-funded 3-D printed Shelby Cobra, a record-breaking trim-and-drill tool for Boeing’s 777X.

BAAM has also produced the world’s first 3-D printed excavator, as well as a car and a house that share energy – known as Project AMIE (Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy). During his tour, Perry had the opportunity to drive both the excavator and the Project AMIE car.

According to Bill Peter, director of the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, the tour also allowed ORNL officials to educate Perry about composite materials the lab is developing for 3-D printing, including higher temperature composites, biocomposites, low cost feedstocks and composites with low densities. Perry also had the chance to learn about the development of additively manufactured tooling that is being used to manufacture composite components for aircraft, boats and automobiles.

After his tour, Perry spoke with reporters about the potential for President Trump’s budget cuts may have on ORNL. As Knoxville’s ABC affiliate WBIR reported, Perry said he’ll support continued and even expanded funding.

“What’s going on right behind us at this 3D printer and its application: the defense of our country, the economics of our country. All are, in some form or fashion, being exhibited here, around this facility,” Perry said. “I will be a strong advocate for not only the funding of this but, obviously, the expansion of that in the places that it makes sense.”