Engineer Imagines Industry Shift Toward 3D Printing Cars

According to engineer Jim Kor’s vision of the car-manufacturing future, 3D printing will play an important, even dominant role. Kor has engineered the Urbee 2, which could revolutionize parts manufacturing while creating an industry of small-batch automakers hoping to challenge the status quo. Kor’s goal for Urbee is to maximize miles per gallon with lightweight construction based on 3D printing.

“As the Urbee shows, making a car with this technology has a slew of beneficial side effects,” reports Wired. “The designers were able to focus more on the optimal automobile physics, rather than working to install a hyper efficient motor in a heavy steel-body automobile.”

Kor and his team at Kor Ecologic built the three-wheel, two-passenger vehicle. “The printers he uses create ABS plastic via Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM),” explains the article. “The printer sprays molten polymer to build the chassis layer by microscopic layer until it arrives at the complete object.”

“The machines are so automated that the building process they perform is known as ‘lights out’ construction, meaning Kor uploads the design for a bumper, walks away, shuts off the lights and leaves. A few hundred hours later, he’s got a bumper. The whole car — which is about 10 feet long — takes about 2,500 hours.”

“The thesis we’re following is to take small parts from a big car and make them single large pieces,” Kor explains. “By using one piece instead of many, the car loses weight and gets reduced rolling resistance, and with fewer spaces between parts, the Urbee ends up being exceptionally aerodynamic.”

Kor has already taken in 14 orders for the Urbee, mainly from those who’ve worked on the project with him (the prototype cost around $50,000). “When the funding comes in, the head engineer is planning to take the latest prototype from San Francisco to New York on 10 gallons of gas, preferably pure ethanol. The hope is that the drive will draw even more interest,” writes Wired.

“We’re trying to prove without dispute that we did this drive with existing traffic,” Kor says. “We’re hoping to make it in Google [Maps’] time, and we want to have the Guinness book of world records involved.”

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