Research institutions collaborate with Local Motors for big area additive manufacturing of composite materials

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) in Knoxville, Tennessee, has announced a Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) project with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and 3D printed car company Local Motors.

The project is to develop composite materials that can be used to 3D print components for vehicles. The aim is to “challenge existing designs and define new components to meet longevity and crash performance requirements.”

Big area additive manufacturing (BAAM) machine in use. Photo via IACMI
A Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine in use. Photo via IACMI

Cars with a composite make-up

Composite material development between the three collaborators will take place at the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, leading the way for subsequent facilities around the US that can “produce cars with a substantial advanced composite make-up”.

Gregory Haye, Local Motors General Manager, comments,

The integration of design within the materials selection and manufacture process optimizes vehicle production by reducing cycle time. The partnership with IACMI-The Composites Institute and its vast group of partners provides access to unique research and development capabilities, ultimately resulting in a more efficient manufacture process for our organization.

The front of 3D printed Shelby Cobra made using the commercial side of Oak Ridge's BAAM, Cincinnati Inc. Photo via:
The front of 3D printed Shelby Cobra made using the commercial side of Oak Ridge’s BAAM, Cincinnati Inc. Photo via:

Composite materials in BAAM

As previously reported on 3D Printing Industry Oak Ridge National Laboratory, one of the partners in this project, are conducting studies into the performance of pelletized feedstock for big area additive manufacturing (BAAM).

In composite materials studies, we have also seen research from the likes of Russia’s Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) for 3D printed carbon fiber parts – a material commonly used in cars. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has also developed an aerospace grade carbon fiber composite material suitable for 3D printing.

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Featured images: the Local Motors 3D printed Strati at IMTS 2016. Photo by Michael Petch