April 24, 2014

Local Motors started the first test print of the DDM (Direct Digital Manufacturing) car chassis/tub at Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) today. "We are starting with a carbon fiber infused ABS print of just a tub structure in order to build a test mule, which will rather simply be a chassis + powertrain capable of driving around and used to test the integrity of part, prove out the fastening and attachment techniques, and generally answer any other questions we have!" notes Local Motors.

The hybrid additive/subtractive machine developed by ORNL 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.

The first print was scheduled to take about 48 hours. The machine was programmed to print two solid layers, then 2 layers at "25% infill" and then two more to create the solid base of the part, from there it will begin to move up into the features.

Unfortunately the print was not completed due to some issues in the printing process. But you can still see few layers come out perfectly on this first attempt. Below are the first pics taken from ORNL. The photo below is the printer laid down a bead of the outer perimeter first.

The entire first layer of the print has been laid down after an hour, see the image below. (For your reference, it takes 2500 hours to print the body of the Urbee car.)

Here is a close up of the front end after completing just the first layer.

ORNL has 2 thermal cameras hooked up to study the temperature gradients of the part, which will later allow the team to analyze Z-strength and bonding of the layers:

Local Motors will 3D print a new EV at the International Manufacturing Trade Show (IMTS) this fall in Chicago. The company is currently focused on investigating the proper use of this machine at ORNL. The challenges are to figure out what the best structure looks like? What materials should be used and when? What is the best way to fasten to that structure, and so on.

Images: Local Motors

Local Motors says that the "majority" of the car should be created with 3D printing. It seems like a crazy idea of building a car at a trade show, but we are really intrigued by the 3D printing plan and can't wait to see the result.

Posted in 3D Printers

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