In just over four months, Local Motors, a company which has garnered a lot of attention over the last year as it teamed with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), will be present at the International Manufacturing Technology Show. There they will attempt to 3D print a car. Yes that’s right. Local Motors will print an actual car, live at the show in Chicago, on September 8-13th, for all to watch.
Such a task is certainly not an easy one. The company, which has only recently begun to make headlines, has their work cut out for them. Any little issue may cause a delay in the printing process, making it impossible for them to complete the print in the six day period, that the show will run for. Because of the short window of time they will be working with, a lot of testing prior to the show is needed.
Today, Local Motors announced that this testing period has begun. Allegra West, the project manager for the 3D printed car, as well as James Rivera, the floor manager, were at ORNL, starting the very first test prints. The first test began yesterday, and its goal was to 3D print a “test mule”. It will be able to be used to determine the integrity of the printed parts, as well as prove that the techniques being used are adequate. The test mule will simply be a chassis + powertrain piece, made from an ABS plastic infused with carbon fiber. The actual car, once printed, will include much more than this. It will feature the body, the chassis, the powertrain, etc.
Here is the 3D model of what the team has set out to print:
The first test went great until the print got nine layers deeps. As you can see below, after one full layer of filament had been extruded, things looked awesome. The first layer took about one hour to complete, and looked like this:
At this point the part began to contract as it cooled, causing a bit of confusion within the printing process. Also there were some minor software issues which the team is examining. They are trying to troubleshoot, as we publish this article. Below is a picture of how far the guys got before deciding to call it a day:
All in all, the testing was a success. Not because they were able to print what they wanted, perfectly, but because the team at Local Motors was able to identify issues which they will certainly have time to correct in the next 137 days, before the big International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago. You can follow along at their blog as Local Motors gets closer and closer to the actual event on September 8th.
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