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Electric vehicles have long been at the forefront of transportation technology. Every year battery technology improves, cars become more stylish and functional, charging stations become more widespread, and consumers become more receptive to fully-embracing clean transportation options. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that the EV market has just been rocked by another innovation; the 3D printed electric car.
Local Motors has just announced plans to deliver a 3D printed car to the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago later this year. It will be one of the first electric cars to be “printed” using additive manufacturing, thus unlocking brand new avenues for innovation amongst electric vehicles.
While the 3D printed electric vehicle will likely be relegated to a niche segment of the electric vehicle market for now, it nevertheless underlines the exciting technological innovations taking place in the EV market every year. It also highlights why investing in EV charging stations has become so popular with companies looking to convey a cutting edge, 21st century image while providing an increasingly popular service for a growing segment of the automobile market.
A Primer on 3D Printing
3D printing is a manufacturing process that has actually been around since the 1980s. However, it wasn’t until 2010 when 3D printing technology vastly improved and become more economically viable. The premise behind 3D printing is to send printing specifications to a printer, which can then use various raw inputs to produce a three dimensional end product.
Some common household applications for a 3D printer are making vases, cups and basic consumer goods. However, 3D printing has been deployed in more complex manufacturing processes such as constructing houses, making furniture, and now, building cars.
Some of the benefits of 3D printing are that it can reduce construction costs, drastically cut-down manufacturing design, and allow for easy design adjustments via software. While 3D printing technology is still very much in its infancy, it will be interesting to see where the technology will be 20 years from now.
Local Motors’ 3D Printed Electric Vehicle
Local Motors still has some time before the Chicago Technology Show in September, so it hasn’t revealed all the technical aspects of its 3D printed car. However, it will be using advanced manufacturing techniques and material science from the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to produce the world’s first direct digital manufactured vehicle.
The car will be uniquely customized to suit the streets of Chicago. This local orientation suits the company’s overall automobile vision – to create cars that are uniquely customized to fit in with their local landscape. And perhaps 3D printing technology is the best, most efficient way to accomplish such a locally oriented electric vehicle.
Local Motors will be using the car to demonstrate how companies can use advanced additive manufacturing techniques to produce sustainable green technology at a lower production cost.
The company’s first customer for the new 3D printed electric vehicle will be the Association for Manufacturing Technology.
The EV Market: Defined By Innovation
Local Motors’ 3D printed electric car is just one example of how cutting-edge technology is being applied to the EV market. However, the EV market is a sector that has been defined by technological innovation since its inception. This technological innovation has fueled increasing interest into creating a clean transportation future defined by digital networks, smart technology, and the user experience.
Forward thinking companies have been latching onto this innovation by investing in fleets of electric cars and EV charging stations. Investing in the EV economy can be a powerful way to solidify a company’s dedication to innovation and sustainability, which are two key components of the 21st century business model.
Joseph Tohill is a freelance writer and online communications specialist for organizations in the sustainability sector. He has a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of British Columbia and spent most of his academic career studying sustainable urban development; namely the interdisciplinary relationship between built form and natural environment.