Invention of the Month: 3D-Printed Cars

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Recently, automobile company Local Motors announced their plans to produce the first 3D-printed, fully functional car that promises many environment-friendly benefits. The company hopes to introduce this innovation, which they are calling the “LM3D,” to the consumer market as their newest engineering feat by 2017.

This technology is a breakthrough for the automobile making industry. In addition to the energy it saves, the 3D-printing process conserves resources and produces minimal waste. Local Motors claims that approximately 80% of the vehicle is made with thermoplastic, and majority of the parts are 3D-printed, including the rear wing and shock absorbers. This is an eco-friendly alternative to the way in which cars are normally produced, as they are made by taking large masses of non reusable materials and cutting them down to a size fit for automobiles.

The company is also planning to allow potential customers to trade their old cars for new 3D-printed cars with hardware upgrades. They intend to melt the thermoplastic and carbon fiber found in old cars in order to construct new parts, thereby practicing mass customization, a convenience for consumers in this new market.

However, some are skeptical of this new technology. Sophomore Anil Singh stated, “It’s a fascinating idea, but the only concern I have is about cost. The amount of effort needed to meticulously print every single piece of a vehicle and put them together is no easy labor. Therefore it would only make sense that these vehicles be priced higher than traditional vehicles.”

Though Local Motors is currently generating more of their 3D-printed car series, production remains slow and costly. The company has set the price to range from $30,000 to $50,000, which costs significantly more than a typical sedan today.

Senior Joyce Wong, who has a driver’s permit and is learning how to drive, also expressed disapproval. She stated, “When you work with a whole, it’s a lot easier to make mistakes and malfunction, and I do not think [the LM3D] should be placed on the road.”