3D seems to be all the rage nowadays. After all, filmmakers can’t move fast enough to crank out one 3D version of a movie after another. And recently, there’s been a spate of articles about 3D-printed things from buildings to human veins.
Many are unfamiliar with this technology which is truly on the leading edge of “cutting edge.” The amazing 3D printers can print using plastics, composites, and metal. Metal is printed using a special method known as “EBM” (Electron Beam Melting) technology.
Experts believe the process will really come into it’s own when nanofiber is perfected. But we don’t have to wait for materials science to solve the challenges with nanotechnology. The 3D-printed car has already arrived.
The sexy little Canadian vehicle is called the “Urbee” and its name is a play on the word urban. The Urbee’s appeared on the news all over Canada and is an entrant in the Canadian X-Prize competition.
Like other 3D projects, the Urbee is the first to ever be manufactured using a gigantic, computer-driven 3D printer. The Urbee’s entire body was literally printed out using an advanced technology called “Fused Deposition Modeling.”
The 3D-printed auto is designed by Kor Ecologic of Winnipeg, Canada. It derives its power from an electric/gasoline hybrid engine that Kor claims will achieve 200mpg on long distance highway driving and a still impressive 100mpg in urban areas.
Jim Kor, president and chief technology officer, Kor Ecologic states: “Other hybrids on the road today were developed by applying ‘green’ standards to traditional vehicle formats.” Yet by incorporating the new 3D process right from the beginning, the design and manufacturing process worked in tandem. “Urbee was designed with environmentally sustainable principles dictating every step of its design.”
The benefits of this process keeps manufacturing as “green” as possible. Kor says that the FDM technology that Stratasys provided was a critical factor in meeting that objective. The designers at Kor state, “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.”
Stratasys is a manufacturer of fused deposition modeling and sells 3D printers. [Website]
A press release from Stratasys explains:
“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.”
According to Popular Mechanics, a consumer version of the 3D Urbee should sell for about $18,000 to $21,000.
Not a bad price for a vehicle that can squeeze 200 miles out of a gallon of gasoline.
Blue Urbee model photo [Credit: Stratasys]