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Team led by Local Motors 3D-printing a car during 6-day IMTS

The Strati is being 3D-printed at IMTS. Click to enlarge.

A team led by Local Motors is 3D-printing a full vehicle body over 44 hours during the International Manufacturing Technology Show 2014 and will follow it up with a first drive set to take place the morning of Saturday, 13 September. Local Motors collaborated with Cincinnati Incorporated, a large-scale manufacturing system builder; Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), a pioneer in advanced materials research; and SABIC to develop and validate the technology and materials needed to deliver the large-format 3D-printing technology. (Earlier post.)

Called the Strati, the electric vehicle will be 3D-printed in one piece using direct digital manufacturing (DDM)—the first time this method has been used to make a car. The car will be printed using SABIC’s LNP STAT-KON AE003, a compound strong enough for automotive applications. Mechanical components—i.e., battery, motor, wiring, and suspension—are sourced from a variety of suppliers, including Renault’s Twizy, a line of electric-powered city cars.

SABIC’s LNP STAT-KON carbon fiber-reinforced compound. Click to enlarge.

LNP STAT-KON AE003 is a carbon fiber-reinforced ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) compound selected for its excellent strength-to-weight ratio, high stiffness and low thermal expansion, which minimizes warping during the 3D-printing process, enhancing aesthetics and performance.

The Strati uses the material science and advanced manufacturing techniques pioneered at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). More specifically, the project is using a hybrid additive/subtractive technology being developed at ORNL.

This machine uses a large diameter extrusion head to 3D-print objects at high speed, then on the same head it also uses a router to come back and machine surfaces to a more precise specification where required. This machine allows car-scale forms to be created very quickly and freely to machined precision, but without the necessity of forming tools, etc.

This project represents the unique opportunity DOE’s National Laboratory System offers to the industry, to collaborate in an open environment to deliver fast, innovative, manufacturing solutions. 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.

—Craig Blue, Director, Advanced Manufacturing Program and Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL

The BAAM (Big Area Additive Manufacturing) machine can be used for actual production. The deposition rate of 40 pounds per hour of carbon reinforced ABS plastic and the large size mean that large parts, like a car, can be produced using additive technology.

—Andrew Jamison, CEO of Cincinnati Incorporated

The concept vehicle event stemmed from a Local Motor’s Design Challenge which resulted in the submission of over 200 entries from 30+ countries. The winning concept, Strati, inspired the full sized 3D-printed prototype.

The vehicle proves the viability of using sustainable, digital manufacturing solutions in the automotive industry Local Motors said. Local Motors plans to launch production-level 3D-printed vehicles that will be available to the general public for purchase in the months following the show.

IMTS, the largest and longest running manufacturing technology trade show in the United States, is held every other year at McCormick Place in Chicago, Ill. IMTS 2014 is runing 8-13 September.



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