By: Eileen Marable
Imagine a world where you could order every detail you ever wanted from a car online and have it 3D printed to your specifications. Or, where once very rare cars are replicated via 3D printing for a new generation.
The 3D printed car is here. The first model, the Strati was a little rough around the edges, but it didn’t take long for the developers to raise the bar and re-create a 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 in honor of its 50th anniversary this January. The printed Cobra was definitely finished to be a stunner.
The car is a collaboration of many companies. The 3D chassis and electric motor came courtesy of the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). They used their Big Area Additive Manufacturing printer, which can print single pieces in sizes greater than one cubic meter – and in this case they used a composite that included 20 percent carbon fiber.
The 3D-Printed Cobra took just six weeks to complete, though the printing itself only took about 24 hours. The signature Cobra sleek blue and white finish was the work of Knoxville, Tennessee-based company Tru-Design that specializes in carbon fiber and fiberglass.
With such a gorgeous and speedy end result it’s easy to see what ORNL is trying to innovate. The idea is that with 3D printing the manufacturing process can be done on a large and rapid scale. The 3D-Cobra is proof that something as large as a car, needing both style and durability can be created with 3D printers and may one day change the automotive industry and perhaps have an impact on the environment.
The team that worked on the car has dubbed it a “laboratory on wheels.”
As the ORNL team works to take the process of 3D printed cars to the next level, the shift could change many things – concept cars could more easily come to fruition. Rare models could be replicated. Even better, your daily ride could be customized to you. It’s an interesting future to contemplate.
If you live or are visiting in the Washington DC area now, you can see the 3D Shelby in the lobby of the Department of Energy. You can follow its progress on Twitter via #3DPrintedCar.