The 3D printed car; now there’s a very interesting concept.
If the developing world chooses to adopt car ownership, at the same levels as the developed world has, then some major innovations are going to be needed.
Quite frankly, I don’t think there are enough natural resources (especially oil), to fuel that sort of growth.
Of course the clever engineers of the world, will come up with alternative solutions, and there are a number of exciting developments occurring already.
First of all, the electric car will wean the world off its insatiable appetite, for a rapidly declining natural resource – oil.
Secondly, the autonomous car will enable the world’s population to be transported around, using far fewer vehicles.
But how will the automobile of the future be manufactured?
Enter the 3D printable car.
3D printing has some very distinct characteristics, which gives it a major advantage over conventional manufacturing.
These advantages will work very nicely in the automobile industry.
For example, the highly automated nature of 3D printing, will remove the incentive to outsource manufacturing to low cost countries.
3D printed cars could be made locally, eliminating the cost and environmental impact of shipping from abroad.
In addition to this, the ability of 3D printing to create different parts, without the need for retooling, will reduce costs enormously.
This in turn will allow easy and cost effective customisation for each individual customer.
Something the consumer is increasingly looking for.
The list of benefits is long.
Let’s take a look at some of the best 3D printed cars in development today.
3D Printed Car 1 – Local Motors LM3D
The LM3D, part of a 3D printed car series designed and manufactured by Local Motors.
Its engineers are working towards creating a 3D printed car, that exceeds FMVSS standards by 2017.
Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS), are U.S federal regulations governing: durability; design; performance; and construction specifications for motor vehicles.
So this is not just a concept car that will never make production.
Local Motors are serious about building it.
What makes it unique is the sustainable manufacturing techniques, using small footprint micro factories, made possible by 3D printing.
To give you some details about this 3D printable car, approximately 75% of it is printed.
This includes virtually all of the body panels and chassis.
The Local Motors engineers don’t want to stop there either.
Long-term their goal is to 3D print as much as 90% of the car.
With regards to materials, new types are continuously being developed and tested, but currently 80% is ABS and 20% is carbon fibre.
Carbon fibre is used extensively in formula one.
Designed by Kevin Lo, it took slightly over 2 months to manufacture, and early crash tests have proven encouraging.
All crash test certifications are expected to be complete by the end of the year.
In fact Local Motors has plans to make its 3D printed car safer, than traditionally manufactured cars.
Because of the nature of 3D printing (no retooling required), customisation will be cost effective, and a wide range of aesthetic features are promised.
No need to buy a Ferrari to stand out from the crowd!
Retail purchases should be available this year.
3D Printed Car 2 – Local Motors Olli
Ok, so this isn’t really a 3D printed car.
It’s more a 3D printed bus, or mobility solution as Local Motors call it.
And for me it’s the crossroads of three technologies, which are going to change the world:
- 3D printing;
- Autonomous vehicles;
- and Electric vehicles.
I read a study recently, that showed that 9 billion people (global population is still growing), could be catered for by 200 million less cars than currently exist, on a shared autonomous basis.
Once more, the average wait time for your autonomous taxi pick up, would be less than one minute.
Autonomous cars might seem like pure fantasy, but they already exist, and you may be able to buy one sooner than you think.
And how are these autonomous vehicles likely to be powered; buy batteries of course.
Tesla are already leading the charge on this front, building the largest factory in the world, to produce lithium batteries.
Might be time to sell those oil stocks!
So what’s the idea behind this 3D printable car then?
Well as you may have guessed, you summon Olli using your smartphone, and it drives autonomously to your location and picks you up.
It then drives you where ever you want to go and drops you off.
All of this is powered by a clean and efficient electric motor, and some very sophisticated computer systems.
In addition to this, the cost per mile travelled would be roughly 75% less than what it is today.
3D Printed Car 3 – Local Motors Strati
This is where it all started for Local Motors.
Not just its first 3D printed car, but the world’s first 3D printable car.
The Strati was created as an open source project, designed to solve problems associated with moving people around.
It’s unsurprising that the autonomous bus Olli, was spawned from this first prototype.
Interestingly, Strati is the Italian word for layers.
If you glance up at our company name, you will see it is LayerTrove.
Designed by Michele Anoe, a community member who won the open source design challenge, the car weighs 1,800 pounds, with 1,100 pounds of 3D printed materials.
Similar to Local Motors other 3D printed cars, the materials are ABS and carbon fibre.
It takes roughly forty four hours to print the entire structure.
The parts which cannot be 3D printed, such as the: wheels; tyres; motor; battery; and power train, come from a Renault Twizy.
With over 225 layers, the Strati can reach speeds of up to 40 mph.
Clearly this technology is still in very early stages, and the Strati has already been surpassed by newer 3D printed cars.
But the potential of the collaboration between 3D printing and the manufacture of cars is enormous.
The automated nature of additive manufacturing could make it cost effective, to start producing more cars in the western world.
It would be nice to see some manufacturing coming home.
3D Printed Car 4 – Divergent3D Blade
How about this for a 3D printed car?
With 700 BHP and a 0-60 time of 2.6 seconds, this is the world’s first 3D printed supercar.
It is assembled using 3D printed joints, which Divergent3D call nodes, connecting carbon fibre structural materials.
The result is an industrial strength chassis which can be put together in minutes.
Less than 30 minutes to be exact.
Don’t believe me? You can watch an assembly video on their homepage.
The engine is a four cylinder turbocharged internal combustion, which creates performance figures that better a McLaren P1.
Once more, the Blade has a power to weight ratio double that of a Bugatti Veyron, due to its feather weight 1,388 pounds.
With these sorts of performance figures, you would have to be concerned about the cars safety.
Well tests have shown the strength and durability of the chassis, to be even better than current technology.
What makes this 3D printable car even more interesting, is the relatively low impact its production has on the environment.
There have been big steps forward in recent years, to make cars more environmentally friendly.
For example, more fuel efficient cars and more recently, battery powered cars.
However, most people don’t consider the impact of the manufacturing process.
With conventional manufacturing, that impact is high; especially with regards to electric cars.
When you consider the total environmental impact of manufacturing and running an automobile, Divergent3D claims that its 3D printed cars are three times better.
That is a sensational improvement, and if applied globally could go someway towards solving our substantial environmental problems.
Great work Kevin Czinger.
3D Printed Car 5 – Shelby Cobra
This is a little bit different from the other 3D printed cars on my list, in that it was never intended for production.
The team at Innovations In Manufacturing, produced the Shelby Cobra as a technical showcase, to demonstrate what could be achieved.
Built from scratch in an astonishing six weeks, it doesn’t look like a printed car, in the same way as the Local Motors offerings do.
It looks more like a conventionally manufactured automobile. Just look at that paint job!
Similar to the findings by Divergent3D, the team discovered just how energy efficient this manufacturing process can be.
And also how quick.
Prototypes can be created in a fraction of the time, than they are currently, using conventional techniques.
Lonnie Love, a member of the team, doesn’t believe that 3D printable cars will go mainstream in the near future.
However, where he feels 3D printing will make a difference, is during the automobile development stage.
For example, currently moulds can take weeks and cost $100,000s to produce.
3D printing makes it possible to perform these tasks in days, at a fraction of the price.
This will allow manufacturers to innovate quickly and cheaply, which is absolutely revolutionary.
Removing this bottleneck in the development cycle, will mean getting products to market much faster.
This in turn will likely make cars cheaper for the end consumer.
Let’s hope that they look like the awesome Shelby Cobra too!
3D Printed Car 6 – StreetScooter C16
The StreetScooter C16 3D printed car, is being hailed as a new breed of automobile.
Created by a team of designers and engineers, at Aachen University in Germany, using a Stratasys Objet1000.
It was the first University to own such a machine.
All of the vehicles exterior plastic parts were 3D printed, along with a number of interior components.
The material used was Stratasys’ tough Digital ABS, which was strong enough for the car to perform in strenuous testing environments.
In fact it could keep up with cars made using traditional manufacturing techniques.
One of the major benefits of using 3D printing, is the ability to create a prototype and then very quickly create the finished article.
And because of the size of the Objet1000 3D printer, large parts can be manufactured as single pieces.
1000 x 800 x 500mm to be exact.
Production tools were also 3D printed during the final development stage.
The StreetScooter company was founded in 2010, with the initial goal of creating electric cars, to rival modern day internal combustion vehicles.
There is clearly still some development required in this area, however the C16 weighs 1000lbs (excluding battery), has a real world range of 80 miles, and can reach speeds of up to 60mph.
Ok, so you won’t be winning any drag races, but it’s suitable as a little city run around.
You also get the bragging rights, that you drive a 3D printable car!
Of course not all of the parts are 3D printed, and in fact there were over eighty companies involved in this project.
However the benefits in speed of development, brought about by 3D printing, are what makes it unique.
3D Printed Car – Conclusion
Exciting times ahead for the automobile industry.
My personal feelings are that we are going so see some pretty major changes, over the next couple of decades.
I have been following the development of the autonomous car, and that is a virtual certainty now.
Coming to a road near you soon!
The battery powered car is also highly probable, and given Tesla’s early success, looking pretty certain too.
So where does 3D printing fit into all this excitement?
After doing some research for this article, I would say that full production 3D printed cars, are still some way off.
And even when it does arrive, not everything will be 3D printed.
Limited run, specialist cars like the Divergent3D Blade, seem more likely to me currently.
Where 3D printing will be revolutionary in the car industry, is in the design and prototype stage.
Traditional techniques for prototyping have not evolved much in the last fifty years.
It absorbs huge amounts of time and money, and this in turn slows and adds cost to the entire development process.
Using 3D printing technology, time to market could be reduced, and therefore with it the cost of cars.
I think it will also aid in the development of new ideas, and to help push vehicle technology forward faster.
Please leave me a comment below, and let me know if this post was useful.
Are there any 3D printed cars you think should be on my list?