Full-size Shelby Cobra Made on 3D Printer

Published March 4, 2015

3D printers have enormous capabilities, but who would have thought you could build a Shelby Cobra with that process. No doubt that 3D printers are the coolest thing going right now, whether it’s for industry or just playing around with in the garage, everyone wants one. But who knew one could produce a car?

The folks from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the largest US Department of Energy science and energy laboratory, unveiled their 3D printer-made Shelby Cobra at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this year The good folks in ORNL selected the Shelby Cobra as their subject as the real Shelby Cobra celebrates its 50th anniversary. Oh yeah, and it’s the only car to ever be voted a national monument (which you must admit is way cool).


The Shelby was printed using 20% carbon fiber reinforced ABS material and has a Class A final surface finish through machining, sanding, and polishing. . The final vehicle can in at an astonishingly lite 1400 pounds, 500 pounds of which are printed parts comprised of 20 percent of carbon fiber according to the ORNL. The design provides and opportunity for integrated components to be tested and enhanced in real time, improving digital manufacturing in the automotive manufacturing  industry.


The team took six weeks to design, manufacture and assemble the Shelby, including 24 hours of print time. The new BAAM system, jointly developed by ORNL and Cincinnati Incorporated, can print components 500 to 1000 times faster than today’s industrial additive machines. ORNL researchers say the speed of next-generation additive manufacturing offers new opportunities for the automotive industry, especially in prototyping vehicles, according to the ORNL.


Cincinnati, the manufacturer of the BAMM  describes the process as “3D printing or Additive manufacturing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. 3D printing is also considered distinct from traditional machining techniques, which mostly rely on the removal of material by methods such as cutting or drilling (Subtractive processes).”


OK, here’s an interesting  backstory. In early 1942, the Army Corps of Engineers snatched 59,000-acres to develop the ORNL  as one of three sites of the Manhattan Project developing the atomic bomb. About 3000 residents received court orders to vacate within weeks the homes that their families had occupied for generations. Thousands of scientists, engineers, and workers swarmed into Oak Ridge to build and operate three huge facilities that would change the history of the region and the world forever.


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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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