How 3D Printing Will Affect The Auto Industry
Updated March 29, 2014
Each car makers has always been trying to perfect the manufacturing process, looking for ways to make production faster, cheaper and more efficient, leading to more cars being produced and sold at more affordable prices. A lot of attempts have been made over time and many of them have been successful, such as the usage of the assembly line at the beginning of the 20th century, which ignited mass production of cars. But, after more than a century since the assembly line was used in a vehicle assembly plant for the first time, producing a car is still a pretty expensive and complicated process, so engineers and innovators keep on looking for new solutions.
Since the beginning of the 21th century, a couple of new technologies have been developed that address this issue. 3D printing is one of those technologies. It’s a very sophisticated process which produces 3D objects based on digital models. It has many applications, and so far it has been used in industrial design, civil engineering, architecture, and more recently, the automotive industry, as well.
One such example of using 3D printing technology for making car parts is the Urbee 2 concept, made by engineer Jim Kor. It’s a small, 10 feet long car, which was made in 2,500 hours thanks to a 3D printer, courtesy of RedEye, a company that provides 3D-printing services. The Urbee 2 is a three-wheeled car which can accommodate two people inside. The printer can print out several parts together without connectors, which are required with the conventional production methods. The chassis is made of molten polymer, but the engine will be made of metal. It will be powered by a combination of a 36-volt electric motor, and a diesel engine, and they will provide a total of 10 horsepower. Due to the fact that there more parts are joined and make one piece, the vehicle is lighter and that makes it more aerodynamic, with a 0.15 drag coefficient.
So, the logical question at this point would be if this concept is viable and whether we can expect all cars in the future to be produced this way. There are arguments for and against it. One downside to it is that it’s still to expensive and a lot of improvements need to be done to make 3D printers more affordable so that each car maker can purchase a couple of them and base their whole production on them.
However, the numerous advantages to 3D printing make it appealing and a lot of research is being done to further develop the technology. For example, you could order a car to be made to match your exact demands regarding each car part. You would be able to make your own designs, send them to a manufacturer, and they will make your dream car in a couple of days, since these printers can print practically every shape you can imagine. So, demand for such cars would be huge, forcing manufacturers to invest in the technology.
Jordan Perch is an active promoter of the new developments in the automotive industry. He is an author of many how-to articles related to DMV, safe driving, buying/selling vehicles, auto insurance etc.
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