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The body of Kor Ecologic’s Urbee was additively built using fused deposition modeling technology.

3D Printing a Car. Yes, a Car.

Although rapid prototyping isn’t uncommon in the auto industry (see: autofieldguide.com/articles/rapid-prototyping-how-its-done-at-gm), the technology is typically used by automakers to make pieces and panels.
Although rapid prototyping isn’t uncommon in the auto industry (see: autofieldguide.com/articles/rapid-prototyping-how-its-done-at-gm), the technology is typically used by automakers to make pieces and panels. However, Manitoba-based Kor Ecologic has upped the ante: It used fused deposition modeling (FDM) technology to build the entire body of a full-sized prototype car it calls “Urbee.”
 
Kor Ecologic used a Fortus 900mc 3D production system from Stratasys (stratasys.com) to additively build the body. The system works by depositing molten thermoplastic material through an extrusion head in a pattern based on a post-processed CAD model.
 
Kor Ecologic claims that Urbee, a three-wheel, two-seat hybrid powered by an 8-hp engine, is the world’s first drivable vehicle to use rapid prototyping technology to this extent. But creating the world’s first 3D-printed vehicle isn’t why they used the technology. The group’s mission is to develop a vehicle in a way that assesses the environmental impact of each step of the process. And compared to conventional prototyping methods—which typically involve removing material, whether it is sculpting clay or making molds—the Urbee team says 3D printing is faster, more flexible, less expensive, and more energy efficient.
 
Additionally, the 3D printing has implications beyond prototyping. “This process could revolutionize how we make things,” says Jim Kor, Kor Ecologic president and chief technology officer. “It has certainly changed my way of thinking about manufacturing.”  Currently, plans are for a production version of the Urbee by 2014—and these cars could be printed.