ORNL works with industry on energy-sharing prototype

0924_KCLO_ORNL24_07_ALA 3D-printed building is displayed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory as part of the AMIE (Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy) demonstration. A vehicle, also built using a 3D printer at ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, is part of the integrated system that can share energy with the building. The demonstration took place as part of the first-ever Industry Day sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. (KNS photo/Adam Lau)

The future was parked on Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s front lawn Wednesday, and it created quite a stir.IMG_4760

A nine-month research project, demonstrating a wealth of energy-efficient technologies and a creative approach to energy planning, was on display for the opening session of Industry Day at ORNL.

The prototype known as AMIE (Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy) links a building and a vehicle — both constructed of polymer materials using large-scale 3D printers — that share energy sources via lab-developed wireless connections and make powerful things possible.

“This whole exercise is a ‘what if’ about the future,” ORNL Director Thom Mason said. “What if the investment we make in our car is also going to be part of the power source for our house, instead of sitting idle 95 percent of the time?

“What if you could optimize the energy flow between the vehicle, the battery, the house and what’s going on inside the house in terms of supporting your daily life?”

The integrated systems can take advantage of the solar-powered panels on the building, along with capabilities of the natural gas-powered hybrid electric vehicle.

Chicago-based architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, an internationally known firm responsible for designing 7 of the world’s 15 tallest buildings, did the building design for AMIE. The firm came to the project through the University of Tennessee-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Energy and Urbanism — a position currently held by Phil Enquist, a partner in the company.

The all-star team from industry also had plenty of local connections, such as: Clayton Homes, which assembled the building after the components were printed at ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility; Alcoa Inc., which was responsible for windows and door framing; and Tru-Design, a small business in Halls, which applied a special urethane finish to both the vehicle and the building structure.

A few hundred people were registered for Industry Day, a first-ever event sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Many of them, including DOE Assistant Secretary David Danielson, gathered on ORNL’s grassy “Quad” for the Wednesday morning demonstration.

Roderick Jackson, the project director for AMIE, said, “We wanted to do something fast and we wanted to do something big and different, and I think we accomplished that.”

According to Jackson, the hands-on involvement by multiple parties allowed problems to be solved in a matter of hours instead of several weeks. Completing the project in nine months was remarkable, showing what’s possible with an urgent and innovative approach.

Rick Boyd, president of manufacturing operations at Clayton Homes, said his team had to overcome obstacles in assembling the building. “It’s one thing to design something on paper. But when you start to put it together and it doesn’t quite fit, how do you modify it so that it does work.”

Rick Spears, founder and president of Tru-Design, said his company has benefited greatly from being a partner with ORNL on this and other projects — especially the networking that takes place. “I meet people now that my company would have to spend millions of dollars just to knock on their door,” he said. “I’m meeting presidents and CEOs — Dow, Johnson Controls, Ford.”

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.