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ORNL's newly printed 3D car will be showcased at the 2015 NAIAS in Detroit. This "laboratory on wheels" uses the Shelby Cobra design, celebrating the 50th anniversary of this model and honoring the first vehicle to be voted a national monument.

The Shelby was printed at the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL using the BAAM (Big Area Additive Manufacturing) machine and is intended as a “plug-n-play” laboratory on wheels. The Shelby will allow research and development of integrated components to be tested and enhanced in real time, improving the use of sustainable, digital manufacturing solutions in the automotive industry.

Text Version

Below is the text version for the video 3D Printed Shelby Cobra:

The video opens with a montage and time-lapse of 3D printing the car frame and parts, workers assembling the pieces, sanding and finishing the body, adding the motor and electronics, the motor, and displaying the final result: a Shelby Cobra in blue with white racing stripes.

LONNIE LOVE, PhD – Manufacturing Demonstration Facility: In a matter of six weeks to go from saying, “Hey, let’s print a car,” to actually having a working vehicle, which is unheard of. Six weeks is insane. What you’re going to see at the Detroit auto show is a car that’s going to shock people. It’s not going to look like a printed vehicle. It’s going to look like a real car. As a matter of fact it’s going to look like a real beautiful car.

On screen: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Manufacturing Demonstration Facility

The Lab is not an auto manufacturer; we’re an auto innovator. We develop technologies that are going to go onto cars in 5 years, 10 years. Things like wireless charging, like lightweight power electronics, like new drivetrains.

On screen: video montage of testing apparatus for wireless charging, lightweight electronics in the vehicle, a vehicle on a drivetrain testing apparatus, and of the 3D printed cobra being assembled.

LOVE: So the reason that I believe that DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office got behind this was they saw that we didn’t just want to repeat what had already been done. We want to push the technology forward. So in a matter of six weeks not only have we developed a car, we’ve developed new technologies.

On screen: Caption that reads, "Energy Efficiency" and video of the car, in mid-production, being driven.

LOVE: Number 1, we quantified how much energy – how efficient this manufacturing process is. When you look at how much energy it takes to make a car, this is one of the most energy efficient ways to do it. It’s absolutely shocking.

On screen: "Surface Finish" and video close-up of workers sanding, refining, bonding, and painting the surfaces of the 3D printed parts.

Number 2 is the surface finish. When you look at the parts as they come off of the printers, they’re relatively rough. And right now the body is out at a local company, True Design, and they’re for the first time starting to look at how do you really finish one of these printed bodies. They’ve really had to push the envelope on the chemistry of what paints, what bonding has to go on these materials to give you a really beautiful surface finish. So that was another thing that we’ve developed over the past six weeks is the processes to give you an extremely smooth surface finish not just for the Cobra but for the tools that can be used for the automotive manufacturing industry.

On screen: "Energy Absorption" and video displaying the 3D printed car mid-production.

Number 3 is the energy absorption. So can we design energy absorbing structures using additive we’ve never been able to do before.

On screen: "Speed" with fast-paced progression of images covering the entire process from 3D printing to final product.

And really to me number 4 the most important thing is just speed. The speed at which the national labs can work is absolutely amazing.

On screen: video montage of workers using a mold by laying down sheets of material, rolling on epoxy, and lifting the molded piece off the mold.

Another thing that we’re going to be highlighting and showing at the Detroit Auto Show is a mold. And typically these molds are made out of aluminum or steel. They’ll cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take months to manufacture. And what we’ve shown is instead of taking months to manufacture, we’ve made a mold in about two days. Instead of costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s going to be thousands of dollars. It makes you just much more adept, much more nimble, and I think that you’ll see innovation just explode when this tool, these tools are in the hands of typical designers.

On screen: video montage of production process of the 3D printed car, historical photos of sketches and clay models of prototype vehicles, and detailed view of the finished Shelby Cobra.

Are we going to be printing cars in the near future? And the answer is well I don’t know. Highly unlikely in the next in my lifetime we’re going to see mass production of printed vehicles, but the way we make prototype cars today is exactly the same way they made it thirty, forty years ago which is clay models. What we’re showing is we can go well beyond that now. You can go and print out a working prototype vehicle in weeks, in days and drive through the streets and look at people’s involvement, look at people’s excitement. You can test it for form, fit and function. So your ability to innovate quickly has radically changed. I think there’s a whole industry that can be built up around rapid innovation in transportation. And that again is revolutionary.

On screen: Logo of Oak Ridge National Lab; logo of U.S. Department of Energy