The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) was the fifth institute named as part of the Manufacturing USA network, which also includes America Makes and about a dozen other specialized manufacturing institutes. Led by the US Department of Energy and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, IACMI brings together universities, industry, national laboratories, and government agencies to accelerate the development and commercialization of advanced composites for energy and economic security. Now IACMI is embarking on a new project in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Local Motors to use large-scale additive manufacturing in the development of new materials with advanced composite reinforcements.

Local Motors, famous for the 3D printed Strati, is a leader in the development of automotive 3D printing, and this new collaboration will focus on the development of composite materials for low-cost automotive parts. The three organizations will work together on design and materials selection for a new process that involves the use of additive manufacturing to reinforce advanced composite parts for vehicles. The project is expected to challenge current vehicle designs and create new components to meet longevity and crash performance requirements.

The 3D printed Strati

“The integration of design within the materials selection and manufacture process optimizes vehicle production by reducing cycle time,” said Gregory Haye, Local Motors General Manager. “The partnership with IACMI-The Composites Institute and its vast group of partners provides access to unique research and development capabilities, ultimately resulting in a more efficient manufacture process for our organization.”

The project will take place at the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility and is expected to ultimately create several new facilities capable of producing cars made from a significant percentage of advanced composite materials. In addition, multiple new high-skilled jobs are expected to be created this year, with impacts over a range of manufacturing sectors leading to a 50% reduction in design to manufacturing time.

“The Composites Institute’s impact is larger than the project research and development work taking place at our facilities,” said Bryan Dods, IACMI CEO. “Collaboration amongst IACMI members spans the entire industry supply chain from material suppliers, BASF and TechmerPM, to design and manufacturing with Local Motors. Commercialization of new innovations is resulting in the creation of new jobs, expansion of manufacturing facilities and an overall economic development impact benefitting the entire ecosystem of composites manufacturers.”

IACMI, like the other Manufacturing USA institutes, is committed to increasing manufacturing jobs and production within the US. In the current economic and political climate, suffused with worry about disappearing manufacturing jobs, endeavors like this one are reason for excitement. The collaboration is yet another example of how 3D printing can create jobs while at the same time making manufacturing faster and more cost-effective, energy-efficient, and capable of creating stronger and better products.

It’s also an example of how additive manufacturing stretches across industries – the Manufacturing USA institutes may be broken into specialized segments, but 3D printing isn’t just limited to America Makes. The technology is spread across multiple institutes – it plays a vital role in the recently established Advanced Tissue Biofabrication Institute, for example. The IACMI/ORNL/Local Motors project will do more than create better, safer cars – it will demonstrate again the many positive ways in which additive manufacturing can impact the economy and the future of manufacturing. Discuss in the 3D Printed Composites forum at 3DPB.com.

 

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