Sep 23, 2015 | By Kira

Two of the most pressing and discussed issues facing the world today include the global housing crisis, with more than 800 million people forced to live in slums, and our grotesque reliance on non-renewable energy sources, which has led to the depletion of Earth’s resources and has dramatically increased global warming.  3D printing technology has already made huge contributions to address both of these concerns individually, such as affordable 3D printed homes and efficient 3D printed wind turbines, however energy waste in manufacturing, buildings and transportation is fundamentally  connected—a real breakthrough means solving them together rather than separately.

At today’s EERE day, The Oak Ridge National Laboratory unveiled its Additve Manufactuing Integrated Energy (AMIE) project, a first-of-its-kind design that uses an integrated symbiotic energy system to share energy between a single-unit, 3D printed solar powered house and a 3D printed electric car. When scaled up to a full-size community, AMIE could support worldwide electricity needs, completely revolutionizing how we generate, use and store clean energy. Thanks to a collaboration between more than 20 major industry partners and with the innovative use of 3D printing technology, AMIE went from concept to launch within just one year. 

The fact that both house and car are completely 3D printed is an impressive feat in itself. The team, led by ORNL’s Roderick Jackson, had to rethink existing construction methods and additive manufacturing technologies in order to churn out the 38x12x13 foot house and accompanying Printed Utility Vehicle. To do so, they turned to their own BAAM (Big Area Additive Manufacturing) system and a mighty 3D printing machine known as Bertha, which has a massive 8’x20’x6’ build volume.

“We build buildings the same way we’ve built them for centuries,” said Jackson. “What if we didn’t have to use any of the materials that we typically have? We’re not limited to corners and straight walls—remove all of the constraints of today.”

They turned to architecture firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill to design the house, which includes a small kitchenette, entertainment area, and Murphy bed. Clayton Homes, the nation’s largest builder of manufactured housing, assembled it. Both the house and car used over 25,000 lbs of printed material.

The team took advantage of 3D printing’s instant feedback and rapid prototyping to experiment with new shapes, printing speeds, battery technologies, cleaner burning fuels, and basically every possible option that could improve the design and maximize energy savings. “It’s the flexibility of this printed platform that allows us to explore all of those opportunities,” said Scott Curan of ORNL’s Fuels, Engines and Emissions department. Their ongoing philosophy during the construction phase? “IF we get it right the firs time, it probably wasn’t innovative enough,” said Jackson.

The fact that both house and car are 3D printed would be impressive enough in its own right, however the true innovation comes from the integrated energy-sharing platform, which uses a bi-directional wireless charger to direct energy to and from the car or house as needed. The project’s energy control center manages the system’s electrical demand and load by balancing the intermittent power from the buildin’s 3.2 kw solar array with supplemental power from the vehicle. In essence, this approach was designed to take advantage of the fact that even though we aren’t using our car and our house every minute of the day, they can still be generating and storing energy. So, while it is sunny outside, the house produces its own solar energy, and at night or on cloudy days, the natural-gas-powered hybrid electric car can provide supplemental power.

AMIE Electrical Energy Flow

This groundbreaking system could only have been achieved through the collaborative effort and expertise of several specialized areas, including advanced manufacturing, vehicle technologies, building technologies and sustainable electricity. To that end, major industry partners include Alcoa/Kawneer, Clayton homes, Cincinnati Incorporated, DowAksa, GE Applicances, Spiers New Technologies, and many others.

The AMIE project is perhaps our most promising solution to the challenges facing the modern electric grid, which faces extreme weather blowouts, climate change, and increasing demand for renewable energy sources. Today, more than 1.3 billion people worldwide have no access to an electric grid, yet with AMIE that could soon be solved.

“We’re looking at large community issues from the single-unit level,” said Martin Keller, associate laboratory director for Energy and Environmental Sciences at ORNL. “Our research provides solutions on a small scale, which will translate to a significant reduction in energy use and an increase in cost savings when ramped up to a national, and even global, level.”

Having gone from concept to reality in just 12 months, it is obvious that the developers  see AMIE not as a finished product, but as the very beginning of a new way of producing, consuming, and storing clean energy. “AMIE is not the end, it’s the beginning of a discussion,” said Jackson. “We want people to look at it and say, ‘what if?’"



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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