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Are 3D Printed the Future of the Automotive Industry?


3D printing has become one of the most talked about technologies on the planet. While hobbyists across the world are getting their hands on machines designed for use in the home, it’s how the process could change large scale manufacturing that is the most interesting prospect.

What Is 3D Printing?

First of all, let’s establish what 3D printing is and how it works. 3D printing refers to the process of creating a three dimensional solid object from a digital file. When the file is created through a 3D modeling program or a 3D scanner, the machine uses an additive process in which objects are formed by laying down successive layers of material until the entire object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.

3D Printed Cars: Science Fiction or Reality?

As hard as it might be to believe, 3D printed cars are actually already in existence. At the most recent Detroit Auto Show, an Arizona based company called Local Motors brought along what it calls the Strati, the world’s first printed car. With just 47 parts–compared to the near 35,000 a conventional automobile is made up of–the printing process takes 44 hours to complete, after which the carbon fibre-reinforced plastic components are routed and polished to achieve a cleaner look. The company currently operates out of what it calls a 40,000 square foot “microfactory,” but plans to expand into Knoxville, Tennessee, and Washington, DC, where the final production car will be made available for between $18,000-$30,000 by the end of the year.

The Future of the Industry

Local Motors imagines a future dominated by these micro-factories, all of which are crowd funded and producing vehicles that are designed by the public. Using this more flexible strategy, the company believes that designing a car–a process that normally takes around 5 years for a conventional manufacturer–could now take just 5 months.

While the company is aware that there may be legislative difficulties in bringing the car to major markets like the US and the UK, they remain confident that the project could prove invaluable to developing countries around the world.

How would you feel about driving a printed car? Are you worried about properly ensuring the safety of the vehicle or do you feel the technology will soon be ready? Get in touch with us and let us know on Twitter.


Blog post by : Pano Savvidis