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When it comes to 3D printing opportunities, the thought of printing things on a larger scale still seems like a pipe dream. That isn't the case any longer, and it's now going as large as printing fabricated houses over in China. And you'd think that China, Japan, or either of the Koreas would be ahead of us in printing out a workable car. It turns out that we may be the first to create a drivable car printed out entirely on a 3D printer.
Recently, a company out of Phoenix, Arizona called Local Motors decided to try a creative challenge in printing out a full car that's fully operable. They're reportedly going to demonstrate this next September in Chicago at the International Manufacturing Technology Show where it's now a race against time to get it done. So far, though, Local Motors has successfully tested a bare bones test vehicle that managed to work without a hitch. It's a stunning achievement that proves to the car industry we may all be printing cars in the future rather than buy one physically on a car lot.
What Opportunities Will Printing Cars Bring?
It's going to be interesting to see just what that fully printed car will look like, because the appearance of cars makes all the difference in whether someone will buy it or not. Electric cars haven't hit it off with everyone yet because of their expensive price tag and the fact they don't always look attractive. We'll be keeping an eye out for Local Motors' 3D-printed car in September to see just how good it looks once it has a full body over the frame.
If it looks appealing, it could be an immediate new shift in the production of cars, particularly in how they're made. If Local Motors makes their September deadline and successfully demonstrates that a fully functional car can be printed over a reasonable period of time, you can expect the car industry to be ringing their phones off the hook.
For a car manufacturer, it's probably going to mean learning to work with 3D printers compared to how it's been done for decades. Nevertheless, it's probably going to enhance jobs and easily add new ones in the 3D design process.
As for people printing cars in their garage, that's probably going to be a long time off. Such a printer to buy in the home would likely cost in the six figures for years to come. However, it's easy to picture it in a couple of decades or more. Car dealerships won't have to worry about keeping cars on the lot and perhaps just have one test model available to show buyers what's available. Then they'd send a file to your 3D printer that would proceed in printing out the full car you bought.
Keep in mind it would probably mean self-assembly, which may not be all that complicated. Or, 3D printers could eventually get to the point where the old phrase "some assembly required" no longer exists in pop culture vocabulary.