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Print-a-Car on the Horizon

Meet the Urbee 2, a car that was printed from the ground up:

[Jim Kor’s] creation is called the Urbee 2 and it could revolutionize parts manufacturing while creating a cottage industry of small-batch automakers intent on challenging the status quo.

Urbee’s approach to maximum miles per gallon starts with lightweight construction—something that 3-D printing is particularly well suited for. The designers were able to focus more on the optimal automobile physics, rather than working to install a hyper efficient motor in a heavy steel-body automobile.

3-D printing isn’t just a cool tool for hobbyists to unleash their creativity (though it is that, too). Its additive manufacturing process makes stronger, lighter products out of less material. When a product is constructed layer by minuscule layer, as opposed to being stamped or produced from a mold, every iota of material is intentional.

For cars like the Urbee 2, this means a lighter and more fuel-efficient vehicle. The Obama administration’s fuel efficiency standards require an average of 54.5 miles per gallon for the 2025 model year. As carmakers scramble to find ways to make their cars go farther on less gas, they should take note of the Urbee 2 prototype, which gets up to 200 miles to the gallon on the highway and 100 in the city.

But the Urbee is still a long way from commercial production. It takes about 2,500 hours to print out a single car’s components. Compare that with the mere 19 hours it takes to build a Dodge Caliber via traditional, assembly-line production. Printing out a car makes one enormous piece of plastic, which Kor admits introduces the “danger in breaking one piece and have to recreate the whole thing.”

3-D printing still has a long way to go, but it also has tremendous potential to remake how we make things.

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