3D printers and the auto industry have a pretty good relationship. Major auto manufacturers use the technology to rapidly prototype new parts, and enthusiasts, like Jay Leno, use 3D printers to recreate auto parts that are no longer made. That's why it's not too surprising to see the next leap in 3D printed auto manufacturing be an actual vehicle.
Wired has a great piece up today on Kor Ecologic - a company dedicated to rethinking the automobile with the help of 3D printers. The company, started by Jim Kor, is building a new kind of car called the Urbee 2. The vehicle features a lightweight chassis made possible by the ABS plastic its printed with.
A lightweight plastic chassis seems kind of dangerous though. Is this 3D printed car even road safe? The answer is a resounding yes as Kor uses a 3D printing method called Fused Deposition Modeling that can make ABS plastic as hard and resilient as traditional cars produced in a factory.
What may interest most people about the Urbee beyond its 3D printed chassis is the fact that it should get exceptional fuel mileage. The car's light weight means that it will burn far less fuel when on the road, and it will save even more fuel with its hybrid engine.
The Urbee may be desirable for its reported safety and fuel mileage, but how will various regulatory bodies feel about the vehicle? Will it get a pass? Kor told Wired that he feels confident that the Urbee's three-wheeled design and light weight will ensure that it gets passed as a motorcycle. That being said, the team will conduct extensive safety testing to make sure it "exceed[s] most, if not all, current automotive safety standards."
So, how much will the Urbee 2 cost when it goes into full production? The original prototype was priced at about $50,000. The price of the production model shouldn't be too far away from that.
To get an idea of how the Urbee drives, here's a video from last year of the first prototype being taken out for a test drive: