Source: 3D Print.com | BRIAN KRASSENSTEIN

Last year, our top viewed stories all had one thing in common, they were in some way related to Local Motors and their 3D Printed Strati Car. This week, ORNL stepped things up a notch, with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on hand to witness it all. To mark the 50th Anniversary of the Shelby Cobra, an American-engined British sports car, ORNL decided to 3D print a functioning life-sized replica.

This week, ORNL stepped things up a notch, with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on hand to witness it all. To mark the 50th Anniversary of the Shelby Cobra, an American-engined British sports car, ORNL decided to 3D print a functioning life-sized replica. Using the same general machine as Local Motors used to print their vehicle, along with an advanced carbon fiber composite material, the team of just six individuals at ORNL set out on this seemingly immense project to recreate the Shelby Cobra in just six weeks time.

How impossible did this task seem at first? Considering that it would have taken dozens of individuals approximately a year to complete, using traditional manufacturing methods, the team certainly had their work cut out for them. Why the rush? Well, the North American International Auto Show starts on Monday, January 12, and it would certainly be a travesty if this vehicle could not make an appearance.

So the team of six set out to 3D print the Shelby Cobra at the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL, the only car which has ever been voted a national monument.

The first step was to 3D print the main chassis. From their, they went on to 3D print the rest of the vehicle in several pieces, eventually bonding all the pieces together to form its main body. Next it was time to add in the electrical components, and of course the engine. These parts were obviously not 3D printed.

Due to the layer-by-layer printing process, there were defined layers within the carbon fiber composite which made up the body of the vehicle. If you remember seeing photos of Local Motor’s Strati, it was not smooth and shiny like most cars are off the lot. The Shelby, however, would have to be smoothed and finished so that it didn’t appear to be printed.  After all, back in the 60’s they certainly didn’t 3D print cars.

In the end, the vehicle turned out to be half the weight, and three times as strong as the original Shelby Cobra, with increased performance and safety. The team also integrated a zero-emissions electric motor into the vehicle, powered by wide bandgap power electronics, which are much more efficient and affordable than traditional technologies.