3D Printed Home and Vehicle Seek to Do More with Less

By Samantha Bild on

What if a car was used for more than transportation needs? What if it could be used as your home’s energy source during a natural disaster?

Last week, ModernTech, a TriMech Company, sponsored the Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) Industry Day at ORNL where a team of researchers unveiled a 3D printed car and home from the Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) project.

AMIE seeks to push the building construction and automotive industries to do more with less. The AMIE project began just nine months ago with the intent of integrating how we generate, use and store energy between vehicles and dwellings.


3D Printed Dwelling

The 3D printed dwelling was printed on the world’s largest 3D printer at the ORNL Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF). The home is structurally supported by 14 rings made from ABS, a common thermoplastic, with carbon fiber composite.

Structural__Rings_SmallABS with carbon fiber is a gateway material that allowed the AMIE team to ask, “What are the structural capabilities for additive materials?” According to the team, construction waste accounts for 40 percent of all waste in the United States. Additive manufacturing enables seamless integration of technologies, reducing waste by designing to exact specifications.

The team printed around two structural rings per day, figuring out how to reduce build time by 40 percent in one week by manipulating factors like orientation and material composition.

“This is a radical change in the way we design and build houses,” said Roderick Jackson, AMIE Project Lead. “We are innovating and designing in a way that has never occurred before.”

The home design incorporates low-cost vacuum insulated panels developed by NanoPore and ORNL into the 3D printed walls assembled at Clayton Homes. These vacuum insulated panels employ a reduced pore size and lower internal pressure, eliminating gas conduction. This allowed the home’s wall cavity to measure at around 2” thick while still providing exterior and structural cladding.

Insulation_SmallIn a traditional home, you would have several layers ranging from framing, moisture barrier, insulation, and cladding.

“For example, our 1” vacuum panel is comparable to 7” thick conventional insulation. This opens up the door to what you can do in a building and allows you to reimagine the structure,” said Jackson.

Instead of relying solely on the grid, the 3D printed structure diversified its energy portfolio. Also, the home’s energy storage team looked at ways to recycle current energy storage systems instead of creating them from scratch.

For example, the team repurposed used Fiat batteries for energy. The house was outfitted with a micro-kitchen from General Electric that incorporated a stove, dishwasher, sink, refrigerator and freezer in a single unit.

3D Printed Structure at a Glance:

  • 13,500 LBS at 60lbs Per Hour
  • 3.2KW Solar PV Installed on Roof
  • 225 Hours of Total Print Time
  • Printed from ABS with Carbon Fiber Composite (80/20)


3D Printed Vehicle

ORNL is infamously known for 3D printing a Shelby Cobra. The AMIE project pushed that idea further by designing a vehicle that can act as an optimum energy source when people don’t have access to the grid.

Printing the vehicle on MDF’s Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) printer allowed the team to shape and design all parts to create a flexible platform for research and development. The vehicle features a hybrid electric powertrain and onboard power generation from natural gas. Also, a single engine extends the vehicle range and produces power for both the building and the car.

Energy flows between a wireless power transfer, eliminating the need to ‘plug in.’ Again, this is another example of diversifying energy portfolios among our most used assets. The car can run 25-30 miles using battery power, and when the battery runs out the gen-set kicks in, recharging the battering and offering 100 miles of drive time.

“The best thing about 3D printing this car is that design considerations can be optimized for the context. If you had to form this car, it would be time consuming and expensive,” said Jackson.

The chassis along with the frame and outer panels were 3D printed with ABS with carbon fiber composite on BAAM. The hubcaps and console are made with Nylon 12 on a Stratasys Fortus 400. The floor is used to store energy systems.


Is your product development team looking to push the boundary of integrated energy systems? Contact ModernTech, A TriMech Company, and let our engineers help your team explore new horizons.