Additive manufacturing changed the game of creating things. The benefits of adding material instead of removing or shaping a large piece allows for precision and speed like nothing seen before. 3d printing helped many make a name for themselves and an impact on multiple industries. One man is now trying to enter the automotive industry.
The man behind the work
Jim Kor is not a stranger in design. He has over 35 years in vehicle design including automotive, bus, and heavy mobile equipment -just to name a few areas. An ordinary person would have pursued gain in a current workplace but the engineer in Kor motivated him to leave the box and work on what most people would consider a fantasy, the Urbee II.
The first 3d-printed car
Kor leads his company, Kor Ecologic, to make his dream a reality. He and his team have been working a long time to make the Urbee 2. The car is about 10 feet in length, weighs about 1,200 pounds, has three wheels, and is made of plastic. For many that sounds scary but the car may be safer than others out there. The plastic is said to be as strong as steel but half the weight. As Kor puts it, he wants the car to 'exceed current automotive safety standards'. For this reason they are using the safety standards for the legendary Le Mans 24 hour race in France as a benchmark.
The car could provide some of the best mpg's seen. The light frame of the car reduces the gasoline used and the electric engine eliminates gasoline all together. Yes, it is an electric car. The Urbee II is a hybrid so it has a gasoline engine to provide power when needed.
By using a tear drop shape, the car may be one of the most aerodynamic cars out there. How much, Kor Ecologic says the car has half the coefficient of drag as a normal sports car, 0.15 to be exact. For those of you who do know what that means, the coefficient of drag is a measurement of how aerodynamic a car is, the lower the better. Changing the design can lower the drag which will increase fuel savings and speed.
Making the car
It does take some time to print the car. The total time needed is around 2,500 hours. That isn't man hours though. Often the team will select what to print and a sophisticated automated process will do the job. They named this 'lights out' construction, since you give it a design, turn off the lights and leave. If only everything could be like that.
The prototype of the car was built at RedEye, a 3D printing facility. The selected printers used ABS plastic and the process of Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). This type of additive manufacturing sprays the polymer in microscopic layers, slowly building the shell from the ground up.
The total cost of the car is around $50,000. The car remains in research and development as the group works to fix flaws and wait for more funding to come in. Even though it is not in production, there are 14 orders for the Urbee, primarily from people working on it.
Changing the automotive industry
Kor has to have a lot of nerve to enter a business that had recent trouble. Even though some car manufactures did have problems, a new start-up did thrive, Tesla. What type of cars do they make? 100% electric cars. So the Urbee II could make a great name for itself. When enough money comes in, the visionary wants to put 10 gallons of gas in it and travel from San Francisco to New York. This sure will bring a lot of attention that could spark many people's interests.
They do have some problems though. The car will most likely need to be classified as a motorcycle rather than a passenger car. Also since the car is one piece, any type of crash could result in an entire new exterior shell being built.
Hopefully Kor and his fellow coworkers can solve these issues because the idea may be the next big thing for automobiles and 3d printing.