Urbee: The Worlds First 3D Printed Car

by Jason King on April 28, 2013

Urbee 3D Printed CarWhen you start hunting around for a new car a few different factors come into play. Is it really worth the money?

How long will it last before the bumper falls off on the motorway due to rust?

Do I need to buy shares in BP just to make sure I have enough fuel to last me the 5 minute journey down to the local supermarket?

Introducing: Urbee. A clever play on words, the Urbee is the world’s first 3D printed urban car that not only looks stylish and futuristic (was The Jetsons merely a cartoon of 2013?) but is also best friends with your wallet. Pulling an incredible 200 miles per gallon (mpg) on the motorway, the Urbee is quite possibly an insight into the future of the auto industry.

Despite the engine only being able to pull a maximum of 10 horsepower, the new hybrid car can easily reach 70mph, well within the margin of safety in regards to its city car demographic, of which existing models operate at around 40mph.

But, let’s not get side tracked with statistics here, the fact that a car was quite literally printed is something awe inspiring. Traditional vehicles are built by bolting the body pieces onto a moulded framework, then paint and polish is applied along with a whiff of that oh-so-luxurious new car smell. Now Jim Kor, the creator of the Urbee, may not be able to print nice smells with a 3D printer, but what he’s achieved is revolutionary.

The Urbee is created in the same way in which all 3D models are made, by adding layer after layer constantly to generate the final product. Dice, tea mugs and the odd phone case aren’t particularly labour intensive tasks and could be done within an hour or so with today’s technology, but something as engineered as a car takes some serious brainpower.

This is all well and good. Great! A car has been made for a fraction of the price, looks stylish and is environmentally friendly (thus lower road tax!) but there is a major wrench in the system. An average car will take a few days to construct, manufacturers such as Jaguar hand build their cars on a construction line (to ensure high quality) and take around 6 weeks from start to finish. So, how fast was the Urbee created? It wasn’t 3 days, nor was it 6 weeks. Oh no, it was 3D printed in 15 years. You read that right, years.

On the upside, 3D printing 15 years ago wasn’t a major part of society. It was like the first iPod, compared to present models it was unrefined and clunky, which is true of 3D printing and the advances in the industry. What may have taken 15 years to print may now only take a year on a small scale production, which considering the first model was 15 times that amount, a year doesn’t sound too long to wait.

One of the main reasons the Urbee has been donned “one of the most environmentally friendly cars ever created” is due to Kon’s construction philosophy. By ensuring that zero waste is on the car, in the form of aesthetic additives and modifications, the overall weight of the Urbee is around 1,200 pounds which is a staggering one third of your average car.

This means that fuel consumption is at a minimum, resources haven’t been wasted going into the design and construction process and the end cost (considering the technology when the project began and the length of time it spanned over) is around £32,000, which will drop substantially if the vehicle does go into mass production.

So, and this is a big so, how will the Urbee’s design process and overall impact on the hot topic of environmentally friendly travel affect the automotive economy?

One of the main sub branches of the car industry that the Urbee doesn’t depend on is the need for petroleum. The current economy in regards to cars is dependent on the demand for fuel, of which the 3D printed hybrid car doesn’t need a constant supply of. While most cars will be looking at a fuel stop once or maybe twice a week costing hundreds of pounds per person, the Urbee can be domestically charged via a wall socket for a few pennies whilst you put the kettle on and read the newspaper, meaning that your wallet isn’t screaming for help and you have more money to spend on other aspects of your lifestyle.

The Urbee will have an effect on the construction of current cars. A recent example is Jaguar’s near collapse in 2008 whereby their monthly profits were £285m under their monthly costs, quickly shutting them down. After a takeover, they were able to recover and begin the climb back up the competitive ladder, a ladder of which may be swept away by the up and coming popularity of hybrid cars such as the Urbee.

If it were to go into mass production and experience the same level of sales as recent competitors have been having (despite the economy currently being in a triple dip recession in the UK), the Urbee may well be the starting pistol for eco-focused companies across the globe to ranp up their production processes and begin to promote their brands more.

With a steady climb of sales and popularity, brands such as Jaguar may fear closure again due to another fall in profits, meaning that the reign of eco cars is already underway. This combined with the fall in demand for petroleum could also lead to a reduction in money being spent between countries in regards to the purchasing of the oil, leading to an economic crisis. Scary stuff huh?

If the design process of the Urbee can be refined to make it more possible for the eco cars to be mass produced, we may witness more and more models of Urbee roaming our city streets, and for a mere fraction of the cost.

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