3D Printing a Shelby Cobra!

3D Printing a Shelby Cobra!

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has 3D printed a driveable Shelby Cobra. This feat was meant to push the boundaries of ORNL’s Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) technology and show the potential of 3D printing for prototyping. 

3D printing has come a long way since its creation in the 1980s. Use cases are getting bigger and more impressive, like 3D printed houses and boats. But moving from the concept phase to a fully drivable Shelby Cobra, in a matter of 6 weeks, may just be the most impressive. 

The Shelby Cobra’s 3D printed parts, which make up the shell, support frame, passenger monocoque, and grille, are made of 20 percent carbon fiber material. The 3D printed material only weighed in at 500 lbs for a total car weight of 1,400 lbs — almost half that of a regular Shelby Cobra. 

The real magic from this technology is its potential for prototyping. Car prototyping has essentially remained the same for 30 years. 3D models and virtual reality have led to some minor improvements in the process. But every major car manufacturer still uses a clay model to finalize the design of the vehicle. A clay model can be completed in a couple days, but it is not a functional object. It only gives you a visual sense of the vehicle shape. 

ORNL’s BAAM technology boasts the ability to print objects larger than a cubic meter in volume and up to 500 to 1,000 times faster than current printers. Printing components for the Shelby Cobra only took 24 hours. It took 8 hours to print tooling components, and another 4 hours of machining, all for $250. 

But the most impressive part is that once the car was completed, the creators took it for a test drive around the block. 

For prototyping, this enables you to create a hyper-realistic model of the car that gives you a sense of how it looks and a feel for how it drives. In a matter of days you have a fully functional prototype and a much better look into the final product. It’s not just a clay block. It has the look and feel of a real car. 

For any modern manufacturer, 3D printing is an excellent tool for prototyping. At A4 Systems, we are all about quick innovation. We use 3D printing every single day to quickly test new iterations of a product or component. An idea can go from concept to functional prototype in a matter of hours, allowing us to rapidly test realistic versions of our innovations and move onto the next iteration with no wasted time. 

As 3D printing continues to grow, talks of mass production are on the horizon. Could our cars of the future come from a 3D printer?