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At the International Builders Show in Las Vegas last week, the general public got its first glimpse of a 3D-printed building and car that use clean energy in a symbiotic manner to allow off-the-grid living. The Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) project is the brainchild of the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL; Oak Ridge, TN) and is described as a model for energy-efficient systems that link buildings, vehicles and the grid. The building is the largest 3-D printed polymer structure in the world, according to ORNL.

Norbert Sparrow

January 27, 2016

2 Min Read
3D-printed building and car work together to get you off the grid

Oak-Ridge-National-Laboratory-AMIEAn ORNL team worked with several industrial partners, including Techmer PM, Techmer ES and Johnson Controls, to manufacture and connect a natural-gas-powered hybrid electric vehicle with a solar-powered building to create an integrated energy system. Power can flow in either direction between the vehicle and building through a lab-developed wireless technology. The approach allows the car to provide supplemental power to the 210-square-foot house when the sun is not shining.

Fabrication of the building and vehicle was made possible by ORNL's BAAM 3D printer, a behemoth that can print objects measuring 20 x 12 x 6 feet.

The pavilion, designed by architecture firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM; Chicago), is composed of 3D-printed panels that serve as exterior cladding while providing structural support, insulation and moisture protection.

This all-in-one approach cuts down on construction waste and reduces material usage, SOM told de zeen magazine. "SOM and its partners optimized the structure's form to reduce the amount of material used and to express three-dimensional printing's ability to deploy complex, organic geometries," said the firm.

oak-ridge-national-lab-amieSolar panels on the roof feed the battery under the building. The solar panels work in tandem with a natural-gas-powered generator in the 3D-printed car to supply energy for lighting. AMIE demonstrates the use of bidirectional wireless energy and high-tech materials to live off the grid at peak demand times, according to ORNL.

"Working together, we designed a building that innovates construction and building practices and a vehicle with a long enough range to serve as a primary power source," said ORNL's Roderick Jackson, who led the AMIE demonstration project. "Our integrated system allows you to get multiple uses out of your vehicle."

ORNL researchers hope their integrated approach to energy generation, storage and consumption will introduce solutions for the modern electric grid, which faces challenges ranging from extreme weather events to how best to incorporate growing renewable energy use, particularly as the transportation sector transitions away from fossil fuels.

Is anyone surprised that 3D printing and polymers are playing a key role in creating these vitally important solutions?

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree.


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