CLINTON—President Obama took the stage at Techmer PM in Clinton on Friday to announce that the University of Tennessee in Knoxville will head a $259 million advanced manufacturing project and that Oak Ridge National Laboratory will play a key role. The president shared the spotlight with a shiny example of innovation, research, and collaboration between the two—a Shelby Cobra 3D printed car.
The car was highlighted during Obama’s visit as an example of the changing world of manufacturing. It was produced with major contributions from a pair of student interns from UT’s College of Engineering—Alex Roschli and Andrew Messing, a press release said.
Roschli and Messing, both seniors in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, are doing internships at ORNL, where the car was printed at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility.
The press release said Roschli worked on printing and assembling components of the car and fitting them with the body, while Messing developed the software that tells the printer how to make various parts.
“A lot of prep work went into all the printed parts to give them a nice finish and to ensure that they would fit together cleanly on the car,” Roschli said. “It was quite an effort.
“It was awesome getting to see the Cobra come to life.”
While Messing agreed that a lot of work went into the final product, he also said it was well worth it.
In particular, the knowledge gained through the on-the-fly tweaks he made to the software and the ability to see the final product of his work left an impression, the release said.
“Being able to say that you contributed to this cutting-edge technology is amazing,” Messing said.
One of the stated goals of Obama’s visit—also said to be a key in his upcoming State of the Union address—is helping advance manufacturing in the U.S., adopting new approaches and technology to reduce costs and environmental impact, both of which were achieved in the Shelby project.
“The project was very accelerated, a tremendous achievement by the entire team to produce an operational vehicle on such a compacted schedule,” said David K. “Butch” Irick, research assistant professor in the UT Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering, who oversaw the team and helped with the development of the car’s powertrain.
Irick, who also oversees the EcoCAR projects at UT, said that the ability of the team to innovate and find solutions for still-developing technology was key.
“Many of the technologies our students have worked on in the EcoCAR projects are integrated into the vehicle,” Irick said. “However, incorporating additive manufacturing technology at the vehicle scale certainly demonstrates the potential for that technology to become mainstream.”
According to ORNL, the Cobra was 3D-printed with advanced composites that cut its weight in half while improving performance and safety, with a motor powered by wide-bandgap power electronics that are more efficient and less expensive than traditional silicon technologies and can be charged wirelessly.
Even more astounding, the car was developed and produced by six people in just six weeks.
ORNL was also happy with what the project achieved.
“They really helped out with the printing and assembly of the car,” said ORNL group leader Lonnie Love. “They, and a number of other UT students, are critical members of our team.”