On Saturday, September 13, a small but innovative car will be driven through the doors of McCormick Place in Chicago, Ill. They say it will be the world's first 3D printed car (is someone forgetting the Urbee?), and it will represent the result of only 44 total hours of printing time and rapid assembly by a team led by technicians from Local Motors.
During the six-day-long IMTS, or International Manufacturing Technology Show 2014, the two-seater Strati, a car chosen from the company's 3D printed car design challenge, will roll out into history.
Local Motors is a bit of a radical concept itself. The tiny company solicits ideas for new vehicles from around the world via the internet, conducts community voting on the best designs, and then uses rapid prototyping and low-volume manufacturing techniques like 3D printing to manufacture those dream cars.
The team collaborating with Local Motors on the Strati project says it represents a unique cooperation between the Department of Energy National Laboratory System and private industry aimed at creating "an open environment to deliver fast, innovative, manufacturing solutions."
The first result of the collaboration, the Strati, will be 3D printed in a single piece using direct digital manufacturing with mechanical components like the battery, motor, wiring, and suspension coming from forward-looking suppliers like Renault.
"The Strati was designed by our community, made in our microfactory," says John B. Rogers, Jr., CEO of Local Motors. "This brand-new process disrupts the manufacturing status quo, changes the consumer experience, and proves that a car can be born in an entirely different way."
A product of the breakthroughs in material science and advanced manufacturing techniques pioneered at the DOE's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Strati is effectively a test bed for the next generation of processes aimed at changing the way things are made.
"These partnerships are pushing the envelope on emerging technologies, such as large scale additive manufacturing, and accelerating the growth of manufacturing in the United States," said Craig Blue, the Director of the Advanced Manufacturing Program and Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL.
"The Strati...was created to present manufacturing 'technologies of the future' from leading companies, universities, and government research labs. This feature returned IMTS to its roots as a forum where the latest technologies are first seen," says Peter Eelman of the Association For Manufacturing Technology.
The car body will be printed on another piece of advanced technology, the BAAM or Big Area Additive Manufacturing machine, which can be used for actual production. With a deposition rate of 40 pounds per hour of carbon reinforced ABS plastic, the BAAM makes it possible for large parts to be produced using additive technology.
Andrew Jamison, CEO of Cincinnati Incorporated, the makers of the BAAM, says his firm is the oldest North American manufacturer of laser cutting systems, press brakes, and shears for the metal fabrication industry, and they also manufacture powdered metal compacting presses, a production additive technology used primarily in the automotive industry.