Engineers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee built a replica of the Shelby Cobra to celebrate the car’s 50th anniversary and to show off the capabilities of the lab’s Big Area Additive Manufacturing 3D printer (BAAM). It can make strong, lightweight composite parts as large as 36 ft3, and was responsible for making 500 lb of the 1,400-lb Cobra. One-fifth of those 500 lb is carbon fiber. The oak Ridge team designed, manufactured, and assembled the sports car in six weeks, which included 24 hr of 3D printing time. BAAM, which was developed by OakR and Cincinnati Inc., Harrison, Ohio, builds components 500 to 1,000 times faster than current industrial 3D printers. BAAM was also recently upgraded to print using smaller beads of material, so the final finish is smoother. Still, it required the services of TruDesign, a Knoxville-based firm, to give the car its Class A automotive finish.
The car will now be used to test battery and fuel cell technologies, hybrid powertrains, wireless charging devices, and other electronics. Engineers made the Cobra’s subsystems modular to make to simplify removing and replacing them during testing.