The fundamental nature of assembling an automobile is both complex and expensive as man and machine work together on a vehicle with thousands of separate components. But one man is working to develop a lightweight, affordable car that is different in a very important way. Rather than be assembled, this new kind of car is “printed”, and it could revolutionize the auto manufacturing business.
The brainchild of Jim Kor, the car is called the “Urbee”, and not only is the all-plastic design lighter than the traditional steel car body, but it’s just as strong too. Using new 3D printing methods, Kor and his team can upload a part design and then walk away as computers build the car one tiny layer at a time. All told it takes about 2,500 hours to build a single car.
While that is quite a bit of time to build one car, the 3D printing process allows for more intricate manipulation of the materials, allowing a design that is lighter and stronger than traditional steel. Instead of having multiple small components fitting into a single piece, like a bumper, 3D printing allows all the bumper components to be built into one piece. The result is a car with a curb weight of 545 kg, or around 1,100 pounds, allowing for maximum for fuel economy. The teardrop shape and 0.15 drag coefficient also certainly help.
Kor is focusing heavily on safety too, and the three-wheeled urbee is expected to be able to pass the 24 Hours of Le Mans tech inspection. That means it will be a very, very safe vehicle, if it ever makes it into production. Kor already has 14 orders for the Urbee, which he expects to sell for $50,000 each.
Ok, so it isn’t very cheap right now, but 3D printing could alter everything we know about manufacturing, and one day in the far future, we could conceivably order a new car and have it printed out to our exact specifications. How incredible would that be?
Source: Wired | Image: Sara Payne