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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

First 3D-Printed Car Hits The Road

by Lloyd Alter, Toronto

blue urbee model photo
Credit: Stratasys

The Urbee has been an Automotive X Prize candidate and will be on The Discovery Channel's Canadian flagship Daily Planet. The car, designed by Kor Ecologic of Winnipeg, Canada, is an electric / liquid-fuel hybrid that will get the equivalent of over 200 mpg on the highway and 100 MPG in the city.

But it is also the first car ever to have its entire body printed out on a giant 3D printer.

red urbee model photo
Credit: Stratasys

According to a press release from Stratasys:

Urbee is the first prototype car ever to have its entire body 3D printed with an additive process. All exterior components - including the glass panel prototypes - were created using Dimension 3D Printers and Fortus 3D Production Systems at Stratasys' digital manufacturing service - RedEye on Demand.

The designers at Kor point out the benefits of Fused Deposition Modelling:

"Our goal in designing it was to be as 'green' as possible throughout the design and manufacturing processes. FDM technology from Stratasys has been central to meeting that objective. FDM lets us eliminate tooling, machining, and handwork, and it brings incredible efficiency when a design change is needed. If you can get to a pilot run without any tooling, you have advantages."

The implications for building prototypes are obvious; you go straight from computer to finished part in a lot less time. But imagine a few years down the road, when everyone might order up the car body of their choice from a catalogue and just bolt it on a standard chassis. Ding the side? Just print up a replacement.