Jan 26, 2016 | By Tess

In September of last year we reported on the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) new initiative, AMIE, an exciting venture that has pushed the limits of architecture, sustainability, and 3D printing. Recently, over the course of this last week, ORNL and their partners at architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) have officially unveiled the ambitious project to the public at the International Builder’s Show in Las Vegas.

The project, which is part of the Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) initiative, consists of a 3D printed building and a 3D printed motorized vehicle which powers it. The project was an effort made by both government and many industry players, including ORNL, SOM, and even General Electric (who designed the kitchen), to showcase the future potentials of sustainable, off-the-grid human living.

The building structure, designed by SOM, is made up of 3D printed polymer panels which were designed to be versatile and occupy many functions. As the architecture firm explains, “The AMIE building explores the potential for a 3D printed enclosure to condense the many functions of a conventional wall system into an integrated shell—structure, insulation, air and moisture barriers, and exterior cladding.”

By condensing the properties typically held by numerous materials into one 3D printed shell, the project also showcases the potentials for zero-waste construction, and less material consumption in building. The building structure itself consists of insulated solid surfaces, which make up 79% of its surface, and glazed areas, which make up 21% of its surface, the ratio of which helps to maximize the building’s overall energy efficiency.

The 3D printed structure, which the company claims is the world's largest 3D-printed polymer structure, measures 38 ft in length by 12 ft in height by 12 ft in width (11.6m x 3.7 m x 3.7m) and is made up of 3D printed C-shape forms which are reinforced with steel rods to strengthen the structure. What is especially promising for the future of 3D printed buildings is that SOM’s design was able to withstand loads and successfully undergo tests consistent with standard building codes.

For power, solar panels have been integrated into the structure’s roof which supply the house’s battery with power. Additionally, the 3D printed vehicle which was made by ORNL is compatible with the building as it is able to connect to it through a wireless power system, providing any necessary supplementary power.

“The innovation consortium is an excellent example of design, government, science, the university, and multiple industry partners working together to push the limits of building technology and high performance design to solve some of the world’s most urgent issues in energy and urbanism,” says Philip Enquist, SOM partner in charge of urban design and planning.

The project, a stunning example of the potentials of sustainable, off-the-grid living, was—thanks to innovative rapid prototyping—turned from concept into reality in less than one year, making us hopeful that more options for progressive and sustainable ways of living will keep appearing.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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