Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) is getting into 3D printing in a major way via two separate deals. It's partnering with Local Motors to develop technology that will 3D print an entire production model car. A second deal with Cincinnati Inc. will develop a huge, very fast commercial 3D printer.
Local Motors is the crowdsourcing car company we told you about back in 2011. It brings together engineers, industrial designers, and transportation designers to co-design a highly specialized vehicle using an open development platform. The company will then produce it in limited runs at a microfactory. In the cooperative research and development agreement with ORNL, the two will aim at solving some of the thorniest problems in applying 3D printing to car production: How to speed up production and assembly time, make it cost less, and reduce part counts, in other words, how to make the production process more efficient.
The first 3D-printed vehicle will be shown by crowdsourcing car company Local Motors at the International Technology Manufacturing Show in Chicago in September this year. Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Local Motors are partnering to develop technology that will 3D-print an entire production-model car by figuring out how to speed up production and assembly time, make it cost less, and reduce part counts. (Source: Local Motors)
At the same time, the partners say they want to improve auto production by raising control standards, as well as increasing esthetics, safety, and mechanical flexibility. They expect to use material science plus a combination of both subtractive and additive manufacturing (AM) techniques. That hybrid approach is something more companies and institutions are looking at, as Optomec's Ken Vartanian mentioned recently in his contributed February feature article. It's also the main goal of two projects in America Makes' second round of funding for AM R&D.
The partners will use the Department of Energy's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) at ORNL. According to an article on ORNL's website, this facility is working with multiple materials and process technologies, including carbon fiber, magnetic field processing, and printed electronics, as well as additive and subtractive manufacturing techniques. A fact sheet on the MDF says the facility also works with a wide range of AM technologies including e-beam melting, ultrasonic, extrusion, and laser melting deposition. The first car built by Local Motors under this project will be exhibited at the International Technology Manufacturing Show in Chicago in September this year.
An R&D partnership between Local Motors and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will explore vehicle design and construction using 3D printing technologies. The project will make use of equipment at Department of Energy's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, such as the large-scale additive manufacturing machine operated here by ORNL’s Peter Lloyd. (Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
The MDF also features in ORNL's development partnership with machine tools maker Cincinnati Inc. This deal will create a very fast, very large-scale, commercial polymer AM system. Build sizes will be bigger than one cubic meter, and build times are estimated at 200 to 500 times the current speeds, according to a press release, although those aren't specified. Applications for this technology are broad, and include components for aerospace, automotive, robotics, and appliances.
Cincinnati Inc. will contribute its knowledge and experience in making large-scale manufacturing systems, especially the laser cutting systems used in metal fabrication. Those laser cutting systems will be integrated with unspecified AM technology to create a large-scale prototype AM system. This will be amplified with additional functions, including control software, a pellet feed mechanism, and a high-speed cutting tool.
Cadman, good to see your photo after all this time. I don't think it will take many decades, maybe just one decade. But that assumption depends on a lot of things staying constant out there in the world, doesn't it? Meanwhile, we're not printing cars and buildings in any kind of volume. Actual changes in materials & assembly technologies tend to take a long time because the new materials and techniques have to be integrated into complex existing systems.
Ann, think about it. Just a few years ago they were printing ...say candles and stuff....now it's cars and buildings...lol You say decades I say a couple years. It might take awhile, but I do not think decades. The only reason that it won't happen faster is that the machines that make our stuff are expensive, very expensive, but eventually they will be replaced.
Ann, I know. You might be right. A few decades though...hehe I doubt that. I'm sure it will happen and I don't think it will take that long. You and I have been talking about this for only a couple years and look at what has happened! You really , honestly , think it will take decades? I do not. But maybe, they'll need people to keep them in service.....way different than being a machinist though.
RogueMoon, I agree with you--I don't see how this will get rid of machinists. If anything, this technology can supplement what they do. Industrial 3D printing is still a tech--machines and materials and designs combined--that requires techs to run it, at least for making cars. Eventually I'd guess it could be automated, but that's also in the future.
My only concern with the national labs using our tax dollar to this research, is that they will then turn around and sell it to the big companies, locking in the big company advantage and preempting the individual and small company inventors.
The big companies also are the ones who can afford the cost of applying for the contracts and complying with the rules. We long ago remove the small business incentives for them.
If it's made with our taxes, it should be available to every citizen and profit the country.
Cadman-LT you have a good memory. But that was ages ago. Now ORNL talks about what they're doing at least some of the time, although I get the impression it's way after the fact. I think their current state of the art is way beyond whatever they're admitting to.
Good points Roguemoon. Machinists will be, and are, very much in demand. Go into any machine shop and the average age is somewhere around 50 years old. Someone has to step up and take over for these guys when they retire.
On a related note, this technology shift is a perfect example of why we need to put more money into our public K-12 technical education system. Young people need to experience all aspects of manufacturing early so that they can figure out where they might fit in.
And, BTW, ALL kids need to be exposed to this, not just the kids in charter schools.
The manufacturing roles in the future will require more technical expertise and with public K-12 budgets being slashed, Tech Ed. is being put on the back burner. We are going to be hurtin' for certain.
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