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Can you 3D print a car?

Can you 3D print a car?

Technology moves fast, especially in this day and age. 3D printing is no exception; it’s now possible to print everything from shoes to medical equipment, and new ideas are becoming reality all the time. Now it appears that the age of the 3D printed car may be upon us. Writing in Autocar, Sam Sheehan highlights the efforts of Chinese manufacturer Polymaker. Working in conjunction with Italy-based X Electrical Vehicle (XEV), they have produced the Smart-sized LSEV, a car almost entirely made using 3D printing technology:

“Only a few components, such as the chassis, glass windscreen and tyres, are made using conventional methods. This means that, like most 3D printed products, waste material produced from the production of the vehicle is drastically reduced – something that Polymaker boss Xiaofan Luo said will “inspire more [car] companies to adopt 3D printing.”

A Year of Progress

The car industry in 2018 has been one of continual progress in its relationship with 3D printing technology. We have seen goals achieved one by one, with numerous companies across the world choosing to take up the baton.

Even in this atmosphere of innovation, the LSEV by Polymaker and XEV stands out. They have made the most effective progress of any company in this field. Using the process, XEV have manufactured fifteen or so of these vehicles, all of which are being put through rigorous safety tests in order to achieve road-ready certification by 2019. This includes a “crumple zone”, the area of the car which will fold under pressure to reduce the force applied to passengers in an impact. For a 3D printed car, this will be a key attribute to include, and one which has required experimentation.

The start of something

The LSEV, set to ship for around 8-10,000 Euro, is just the beginning. The Italian company XEV plans to scale up, with designs already in the works for four new cars, including a sedan style model and a sports car. If this can be achieved next year, then there will certainly be no stopping the upward march of 3D printed cars.

If companies continue riding on the current wave of experimentation, then we will probably see many more 3D printed cars on the roads in just a few years. The aspect of collaboration in these projects is key, as the big leaps forward are generally being made when different companies put their heads together. The methods may differ, but if the goals are the same then two groups really can make history working in tandem.

Perhaps the most curious part of 3D printing is the way it pushes companies together and dissolves the lines between them. 3D printed cars may not be the biggest result of these collaborations - it may be the impact this technology has on the corporate world itself.

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