A car and house built using large-scale 3D printers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory can provide power to each other, and they’re part of a project designed to answer “what if” questions that could lead to innovations in building and car construction and energy use, storage, and consumption, researchers and officials said Wednesday.
The 210-square-foot house—it’s a solar-powered building—and the printed utility vehicle—officials affectionately call it a PUV—were printed at ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility on Hardin Valley Road.
They were unveiled at ORNL on Wednesday during the lab’s first-ever Industry Day. The building and PUV are part of a project called the Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy, or AMIE, demonstration.
Additive manufacturing is the process used to build something one layer at a time. One of the most well-known examples is the Shelby Cobra car 3-D printed on a large-scale polymer printer at the MDF. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden admired that vehicle—and joked about taking it for a spin—during a trip to East Tennessee in January.
On Wednesday, Roderick Jackson, ORNL’s principal investigator on the AMIE demonstration project, said the house is the world’s largest 3D polymer structure. Officials said it’s one of the first-ever printed homes.
The 38x12x13-foot building is solar-powered, and the vehicle is a natural gas-powered hybrid electric vehicle. Power can flow in either direction between the PUV and the house using a wireless technology developed by ORNL. The car can provide power to the house when the sun is not shining.
“It’s really exciting 3D-printed innovation,” said David Danielson, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy for the U.S. Department of Energy.
ORNL worked with industrial partners to build the house and car. The building was designed by architecture firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill through the University of Tennessee-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Energy and Urbanism. It was assembled by Clayton Homes, the nation’s largest builder of manufactured housing.
In a press release, officials said connecting the house to the 3D-printed vehicle demonstrates the concept of integrating two energy streams—buildings and transportation—that typically operate independently.
“Working together, we designed a building that innovates construction and building practices and a vehicle with a long enough range to serve as a primary power source,” Jackson said. “Our integrated system allows you to get multiple uses out of your vehicle.”
Officials stressed the energy efficiency of the home, which has a one-piece shell, resulted in very little waste, and uses recyclable materials. Jackson said the one-inch thick walls on the 3D-printed home are equivalent to traditional seven-inch-thick insulated walls.
“I think this is the beginning of ‘what if,'” Jackson said. “What if we started over? What if we didn’t build houses the way we have for 100 years? What if cars could power buildings?”
“Potentially, it’s an alternative future,” said Brian Lee, design partner at Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. Many Oak Ridge residents might recognize that company as the one that designed and directed the construction of the city in 1942.
Lee said the AMIE demonstration was designed, tested, and implemented in less than nine months.
The 3D-printed home does not have a toilet, but it has a “micro kitchen.”
David Milhorn, executive vice president of the University of Tennessee, said two other prototype homes were built before the one that was unveiled on Wednesday, and he hopes others will follow.
“There’s a real need for energy-efficient homes in this country,” Milhorn said.
Officials stressed the new collaborations established through the AMIE project. There were 19 project partners.
“We brought all these researchers together,” Jackson said.
The Industry Day event was sponsored by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Officials said the AMIE demonstration project is a “model for energy-efficient systems that link buildings, vehicles, and the grid.”
The press release said advanced building controls and power management maximize the efficiency of the AMIE project’s components. An energy control center manages the system’s electrical demand and load by balancing the intermittent power from the building’s 3.2-kilowatt solar array with supplemental power from the vehicle.
ORNL researchers hope their integrated approach to energy generation, storage, and consumption will introduce solutions for the modern electric grid, which faces challenges ranging from extreme weather to how best to incorporate growing renewable energy use, particularly as the transportation sector moves away from fossil fuels, the press release said.
“We’re looking at large community issues from the single-unit level,” said Martin Keller, ORNL associate lab director for energy and environmental sciences. “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.”
Besides Clayton Homes and Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, other partners included:
- Cincinnati Incorporated;
- GE Appliances;
- Hexagon Lincoln;
- Institute for Advanced Composite Manufacturing Innovation, which is based at MDF;
- Johnson Controls;
- Knoxville Utilities Board;
- Liberty Utilities;
- Mach Fuels;
- Spiers New Technologies;
- Techmer ES;
- Tru-Design; and
- University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design.
“The AMIE demonstration today is the perfect example of the kind of solutions that can come from true public-private partnerships,” said U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann, a Republican whose district includes Oak Ridge. “With the great work being done between ORNL and our local private industry, East Tennessee is poised to be a leader in additive manufacturing for years to come.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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