Source: | Emily Stroud |September 23, 2015

TruDesignA company in Halls is attracting business from around the world – from Detroit to Dubai.

Robert Springfield, an engineer at Tru-Design said, “When Rick told me they were going to print a car I laughed at him.”

Rick is Rick Spears, owner of several businesses, including Tru-Design.

“When they said they were going to print a car in six weeks we were like, No way. And I had the first one printed. And to see where we’ve come from that to this? It’s unreal,” Rick Spears said.

He’s keeping the first one to remind him of how far they’ve come, in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, creating a blue Cobra 3D electric car in six weeks.

“The body is five pieces. The frame is one printed piece,” Robert said.

He is in charge of engineering for Tru-Design.

“The same things we’ve learned with the little desk top printers that high school students are using are directly applicable. It is the same process,” he said.

Rick said: “The printers they have in schools and stuff they print small. They print by ounces by the hour. We print by the pounds by the hour. We’re up to 100 pounds an hour.”

Fresh off the printer the basic material looks like black layers. That’s just one of the printed elements.

“This car actually has metallic printed parts, not the chrome but this matter finished metal here. That’s metal that’s printed. So this car represents printed metal as well as printed polymer materials,” Robert explained.

During a quick visit in January, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden appreciated the technology and the sleek lines. That wow factor is part of its appeal. Companies from across the world have contacted Tru-Design.

Robert said, “This was really created as a rolling laboratory and a demonstration of what is possible.”

It rolled into one of the biggest auto shows.

“We were talking to guys at the Detroit Auto Show and they told us in six weeks they could do a full scale clay model. Well, in six weeks we built a car that will go 85 miles per hour,” he said.

Rick said, “He says it takes him a year to get one to the wind tunnel and it’s still not driveable. And then to have a committee meeting and three months’ worth of changes. We did a hood in four hours. So it’s speed.”

The speed of 3D printer technology, compared to traditional manufacturing, is amazing.

“There aren’t any drawings for this car. It was a CAD to real-world product. That shortens the cycle time, it reduces the cost, and it allows you to do some really innovative things,” Robert said.

And not just cars.

“Whatever your mind can imagine we an do it with a printer,” Rick said.

On Wednesday, ORNL revealed a 3D-printed house and a car that show the future of energy efficiency.