Take a spin in the world's first 3D –printed electric car

3D-printed electric car shows potential for future manufacturing duties

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Credit: DOE

Last week researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other partners including Cincinnati Incorporated, and Local Motors showed off their 3D-printed electric car to the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.

The researchers say the two-seat car, known as a Strati, is built almost entirely of carbon-reinforced plastic, including the body and chassis and took 44 hours to make. The researchers noted that other experimental cars have used 3D printed parts before but this was the first to use the technology almost exclusively.

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According to the Department of Energy and its Advanced Manufacturing Office the car was printed using a new manufacturing machine called Big Area Additive Manufacturing or BAAM. BAAM can build components 10 times larger and hundreds of times faster than existing techniques and print parts up to eight feet in every dimension, an enormous upgrade in printing capabilities that was critical in making the car chassis.

“The additive printing technology used by BAAM typically works in a build-chamber oven by melting a plastic into a computer-specified pattern, one layer at a time. The need for expensive plastic filaments, oven heating equipment, and energy in the form of heat make the process fairly expensive.

front shot DOE

The Strati

But, BAAM overcomes these cost and energy barriers in several ways. First, BAAM switches from expensive plastic filaments to pellet-formed plastic that is currently used by the injection molding industry at a tenth of the cost. Second, BAAM prints components in open air, eliminating the need for a heated build chamber. Last but not least, the system also applies advanced process monitoring techniques and control software developed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility.”

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