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The 3D Printed Shelby Cobra at NPE 2015

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The 3D Printed Shelby Cobra at NPE 2015

The National Plastics Exhibition, or NPE, happens every three years in Orlando, Florida.  The fact that it is dubbed National is besides the point, there were companies from around the world showcasing their new technologies.

I was graced with the opportunity to attend as part of my PhD studies for 3 days and I have to say it was overwhelming.  According to their website, NPE 2015 was to be attended by over 2,000 companies and 60,000 plus industry professionals. 

NPE's focus for the show included 3D printing, recycling, bioplastics, nanotechnology, and business startups.  Every single topic I am very passionate about. 

There was even a giant mobile of 3D filament spools as we went down the escalators to the show floor.

For those who do not know my Bachelors degree is in Nanotechnology Engineering and I studied Nano-Bio-Composite Plastics for my Masters thesis; 3D printing is now the focus of both my PhD and Structur3D. Go figure!  

Because of the 3D printing focus, I was given another opportunity to see the worlds first full-size 3D printed electric car, a 50th anniversary Ford Shelby Cobra.  The rebirth of the 3D Shelby was thanks to a collaboration between TechmerPM and Oak Ridge National Labs (ORNL) as a part of Obama's $259 million dollar investment into additive manufacturing.  Obama even got to take the first peek inside.

The 20% carbon reinforced ABS was formulated by TechmerPS and printed on the ORNL Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) printer.  Motivation for the project comes as part of a US Department of Energy project attempting to print components 10 times larger and 200-500 times faster (in volume) than previously capable with FDM technologies.

Taking a closer look at the 3D printed car, it has a much more complete finish than the Local Motors Strati printed on the same machine.  That is to be expected, as the Shelby Cobra project is demonstrating a high end application, whereas the Strati wants to embrace the 3D printing process.  The surface finish is considered Class A. That being said, upon closer inspection you can see the artifacts of 3D printing (maybe on purpose).  

Have a look at the gallery below to see the 3D printed Shelby Cobra up close. There even appears to be some additively manufactured metal pieces hidden in the design.

Overall, I love the design! Now I just need to see it run to prove it is more than a super-golfcart.

The Shelby Cobra wasn't the only 3D printed car at NPE, my old friend the Local Motors Strati was on display.

Read what I had to say about the process of 3D printing the Strati (it was made on the same Oak Ridges National Laboratory printer) and my chance to take a test ride HERE.


I would love to hear what you think of 3D printed cars. Are they here to stay? Or just a fad? Perhaps there is a special use we haven't thought of yet.  Feel free to comment below.

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Printing, Making, and Driving the Local Motors Strati 3D Printed Car


Printing, Making, and Driving the Local Motors Strati 3D Printed Car

I had the opportunity to attend the North American International Auto Show this past Friday in Detroit, and boy was I in for an awesome surprise.  One of the vehicles catching all of the headlines was the Local Motors Strati - an electric car with a fully 3D printed body.

They were actually manufacturing cars right on the show floor! I will now share with you some of the manufacturing magic I was presented with.

Local Motors production set up on the show floor at NAIAS Detroit 2015

How to 3D Print a Car 101

The 3 stage process was well displayed including 1) 3D Printing, 2) Part Finishing, and 3) Car Assembly.  The material used in the FDM style 3D printer is ABS plastic reinforced with carbon fibre - a very stiff and durable material great for automotive parts.

Take a look at the images below to follow the process from start to finish.

The Finishing Touches on the 3D Parts

The cars on display show both finished and unfinished parts to pay homage to the fabrication technique, but this is not required.  LM has optimized the parts finishing to make them look uber-shiny.  First the 3D printed parts are CNC milled into the proper tolerances, then they are sanded smooth.  Finally, paint or just some plain old elbow grease will make the parts road ready.  See below for some up close photos.

My First 3D Printed Ride!

One thing I did not expect from my trip was that I would actually get to take a ride in the 3D printed car.  I managed to get the last spot in line for a spin around the track in the first ever production Strati, boy was I lucky (and a little giddy).  I managed to get a great selfie and a couple videos racing around the track, make sure to check them out.

Andrew taking a spin in the Local Motors Strati

Engine - 100% electric
Features - electronic engine immobilizer, regenerative disc brakes
Drivetrain - front and rear, rear- wheel drive
Transmission - Automatic, single speed
Battery - 6.1 kwh battery, 62-mile range, 3.5-hour charge time
Motor - 5 bhp or 17 bhp, 42 lb-ft torque*
Body - Approx. 212 layers, direct digital manufactured vehicle (DDMV), carbon fiber reinforced ABS plastic
Top Speed - approx. 50mph*
Wheels - custom made by Fifteen52
— Local Motors

It was exciting to see the team from Local Motors and we wish them the best with whatever cool ideas they have next!

Make sure to check them out at and on Twitter at @localmotors

Make On, Andrew F.