Printed cars

There were two different companies at the recent Detroit Auto Show presenting cars made of 3-D printed parts. One of them displayed a raw body/chassis car that to my eye sort of resembled a Meyers Manx, the other a printed body milled and painted to look just like an old Shelby Cobra. Both were drivable, and both were impressive. The first company is expecting to be able to sell the cars in low volume for under $30K.

Sounds like we’re in for some real fun here.

the success of anything 3-D printed is the media used to cut and build the item. And that is going to be the long tem caveat in all things 3d printed. Competitors will have unknown differences in similar products due in large part to the base stock quality.

Just curious, do they print the parts themselves, or do they just print the molds? Are they able to print sand casting molds yet?

They can print a pattern with a wax like plastic, then coat it with clay and sand, melt the plastic out and pour a part. This is used to make custom orthopedic devices.

I don’t know a great deal about the technology, but I do know that they’re printing the parts directly. And the vehicles are drivable. They could, of course, easily print molds as well.

I’ve had the luxury of visiting a couple of companies that were involved in the technology some years back. One was a company founded by Royden Sanders himself, after he was ultimately run out of Sanders Associates (now BAE systems). His new company, in Milford, was the original developer of this technology. The other was a casting company in Jaffrey that was (and I’m sure still is) using the technology to develop 3-D prototypes with which they could review designs with their customers to make improvement and allow their customers to see how the part will interface with their design, without having to design and make molds and mold prototypes. It’s a serious money and time saver in the design phase.

What type of materials are being used in the new printing technologies is an unknown for me, but I do know it’s a deliverable-product material. In short, the printers can now print finished parts. In the cases of the companies that displayed at the auto show, they can print large finished parts.

I wish I had the personal budget to subscribe to all the trade rags that I used to get. At times like this I miss them.

Want a new car? Ok I’ll just print one up.

I don’t know much about it either but it is interesting. I think they are now printing in metal too in addition to the plastic.

Quite a few years ago I was at car restoration show and one of the guys was actually demonstrating spraying metal to repair rust. I’ve never seen it since but it really looked interesting. Actually spraying droplets of metal that then replaced the rust hole with good metal. Maybe its a similar technology with printing the metal parts.

It just might be. It’s something I never ever would have imagined 40 years ago.
Even in the very late '90s/early 2000s when I first saw the technology making prototypes, I never imagined they’d be applying it to actual deliverable parts. Maybe in 2050 new cars will all be made this way. And all powered by something other than gasoline. Print up a car, stick on a motor and some wheels, and you’ll be good to go.

I suspect the parts will be heavy compared to parts made conventionally. But it could be the future of customization and be useful for making custom bodywork. The film business could get some use out of this. I can’t imagine the time it would take you make a large part, like a hood or fender.

Printed parts are probably more expensive than mass produced parts, but much less expensive than custom made parts that are no longer available.

check out what GE is printing guys… google it cause I don t know how to do the link thing…

mark m, you really need to check this out, the parts will be lighter, stronger and they can print almost everything, maybe everything

While this would be a lot less labor-intensive than fabricating everything by hand, I’d expect that the cost to “print” a car would be astronomical compared to doing it the ‘normal’ way. The supplies that 3D printers consume are still very expensive, you occasionally get dud prints, even with high-end industrial machines, and the time to print parts this large is not insignificant either.

So right now I think this is more of a curiosity than something that will take place anytime soon on any kind of mass scale.

Incidentally, if you want to see one possible extrapolation of this technology, read Neal Stephenson’s “The Diamond Age”. Even more interesting is that he wrote this in 1995, when 3D printing was in its infancy. (Our company just recently scrapped a 3D printer that was made around that period in favor of a newer, more efficient one) While the technology used in the “matter compilers” in the story is way beyond anything possible now, it’s easy to see how something like this could eventually grow from 3D printing as technologies evolve. While this is kind of a dystopian novel, it’s a pretty good read, though it does drag on in parts.

I feel sure there will never be a way to print a completed car. And printing the thousands of pieces in plastic and assembling them might make a great piece of yard art but performance will be somewhat sluggish.

carbon is the future, not plastic,d.eXY,d.eXY

Rod, may I take the liberty of reminding you that 50 years ago I never would have believed two people could carry on a face-to-face conversation 3,000 miles from one another while each riding down the highway at 70mph (as passengers I would hope).

150 years ago nobody would have ever believe anybody could go 70mph.

200 years ago nobody would have ever believed a heavier-than-air machine could fly.

There are still people who don’t believe we walked on the moon.

I have no doubt that this new technology will evolve into a major force in automobile manufacturing. How might be beyond my ability to imagine.

Even the Wright brothers didn’t think flying would ever catch on. Maybe this would be a good time to buy some well placed stock since no one has come up with a workable time machine yet. Maybe print one.

I’m sure that additive manufacturing will find many products where it will be economic to use. It seems to me that most, if not all, automotive products will be most efficiently manufactured in the traditional ways. Turbine vanes are difficult to manufacture, and they are good candidates for additive manufacturing as the two articles that @wesw posted. But imagine how many stamped parts can be manufactured in the time it takes to do one by 3D printing. Parts for your pet Studebaker are few and far between, and all you need is a drawing to custom print one of whatever.

Let me check into Jules Verne’s writings. If he mentions such a technology I will be forced to consider it will come to pass. Otherwise…

lol rod.

well guys you should check out the things they are doing with carbon, not the carbon fibre you are thinking of, but amazing carbon structures that do amazing things.