Will We Be Driving 3D Printed Cars in the Future?
Audi Steps Forward with 3D Printing
There have been plenty of rumors that high-end car manufacturers are turning to 3D printing to push the envelope to create tomorrow’s auto, but who exactly uses this new technology? Audi for one has been feverishly working with 3D printing and has managed to produce an exact replica of a pre-Word War II era Gran Prix racer—all from 3D printed parts.
The 1936 Auto Union Type C racer was constructed of metal 3D printed parts, some even a hair’s width in size, using aluminum and steel as the base metal. The car is not quite built to full size, but at a scale of 1:12, Audi states the replica is fully functional.
At this time, Audi is not ready to include 3D printed parts in its production line of luxury automobiles, but it is eagerly learning as much as possible from its 3D printer which can produce parts 240 millimeters long and 200 millimeters wide.
Meet “Blade,” the World’s First 3D Printed Ferrari
One of the first automobiles to use 3D printing tech wasn’t produced by a major auto manufacturer but by Kevin Czinger of Divergent Microfactories. Kevin and his team created “Blade,” a gleaming Ferrari that has a chassis composed of aluminum nodes and carbon fiber connectors–all manufactured on a 3D printer.
0 to 60 in 2
The company chose to create a super car that can take your breath away, both aesthetically and performance-wise in order to showcase the efficacy of 3D printing for automobile manufacturing. Not only does the car look like an aerodynamic dream, but it can go from 0 to 60 Mph in about 2 seconds. Blade can accelerate like that because it is super strong and super light, the two main features every car manufacturer seeks for its performance models.
The car has literally been stopping traffic wherever it appears. Kevin calls all this attention-getting ability Blade’s appeal to the “animal spirit.” “Everywhere we go it receives an incredible emotional response,” Kevin reports happily.
3D Printing Makes Sense
However the true value in creating a car like Blade is to show how a 3D manufactured car makes sense economically. The 3D manufacturing technique basically uses software to create the parts as opposed to committing to a metal tooling assembly line process that creates parts using metal stamping.
Making changes with the metal tool and die process is extremely costly and time consuming. With 3D printing, changes are made in computer code. A car can be created by a 3D printer for 1/50th of what it would cost to produce it on an assembly line. In addition, there are savings in energy, and it creates less pollution and waste material.
One of Kevin’s main concerns is that pollution occurs over the whole life of a vehicle—from the manufacturing process to tail pipe emissions. Changing the way we manufacture cars just makes good sense for the environment. Kevin is hoping 3D printing will not only pave the way for amazing cars but also a cleaner world.