One day, we’ll have the technology to make our own car at home.
When that day comes, we might look back to 2013 and say that Jim Kor was the reason. Kor is the engineering brains behind a car that can be made from 3-D printing, reports Wired.
Called the Urbee 2, the car, developed by KOR EcoLogic from Winnipeg, Canada, has three wheels, can hold two passengers, and weighs 1,200 pounds. By comparison, a Prius weighs 2,932 pounds.
The printers used to make the car create acrylonitrile butadiene styrene plastic using Fused Deposition Modeling, which lays down material in layers. Wired explains further how that method is used to create the car:
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, walk away, shut 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.
If desired, the printer can add thickness and rigidity to specific sections. This flexibility, which would be impossible when building a car with sheet metal, could create a fender that is as resilient as found on any other car.
A typical car has multiple parts. But Kor’s design aims to have simple unibody shapes. For example, the car’s dashboard will have ducts already in place, rather than have them in pieces for joints and connecting parts.
With fewer pieces instead of many, the car loses weight and has less wind resistance because having fewer spaces between parts means the car is exceptionally aerodynamic. The Urbee 2′s teardrop shape gives it just a 0.15 coefficient of drag.
Not all of the car will be plastic. The hybrid engine and base chassis will be metal. The prototype engine will have a maximum of 10 horsepower, with the 36-volt electric motor providing the power for most of the driving — from zero to 40 mph. If the car needs to go faster, the diesel engine will kick in. Eventually, engineers want to drive the car from San Francisco to New York on 10 gallons of fuel.
How safe is the car? “We’re calling it race car safety,” Kor says. “We want the car to pass the tech inspection required at Le Mans.”
Designers put a tubular metal cage around the driver, “like a NASCAR roll cage,” Kor says. He also may put printed shock-absorbing parts between the printed exterior and the chassis. “Our goal with the final production Urbee,” Kor says, “is to exceed most, if not all, current automotive safety standards.”
Kor has about 14 orders for the car, mostly from people who helped him design it. A prototype is expected to cost about $50,000.
Source: “3-D Printed Car is as Strong as Steel, Half the Weight, and Nearing Production,” Wired, 2/27/13
Image by Urbee, used with permission.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.