The 21st century has seen an explosion in 3D printing. From elaborate chocolate sculptures to prosthetic arms, anything seems printable. It’s no wonder then that electric vehicles would be next on the agenda. Local Motors Inc. recently held a contest open to the public, asking individuals to design a concept for a 3D printed electric vehicle. The company has collaborated with the community before on automobile design, but this is the first competition of its kind. The submissions show an impressive range of creativity, which all push the boundaries of digital manufacturing and offer some really rad design ideas. A prototype of the winning design, Strati by Michele Anoe, is already taking a test drive.
Local Motors isn’t the first to create an environmentally responsible 3D printed vehicle, however. Last year, the company KOR Ecologic created Urbee, a nifty 3D printed car powered by renewable energy. Urbee resembles a futuristic space pod, a design that is supposedly aerodynamic and energy-efficient. Only the body of the car was produced through 3D printing, however, not the working parts. A follow-up prototype, Urbee 2, is currently in production, planned to be almost entirely printed. They’re even taking this model on a cross-country road trip.
While 3D printed vehicles may seem like a niche market reserved for extreme examples, 3D printing has real-world applications for electric vehicle production. Using this technology, producers can manufacture innovative structures, which are otherwise difficult or impossible to make using traditional production methods. 3D printing also reduces energy use, lessens waste, accelerates production time, and lowers manufacturing costs. All in all, this means that Local Motor’s 3D printing initiative could open the door for innovative EV production, putting affordable electric vehicles on the market. They’ll probably look pretty awesome, too.