Henry Ford is attributed with the creation of the assembly line, ushering in a new era of mass manufacturing. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of business or history knows this innovation allowed Ford to create products that were less expensive to manufacture and easier to maintain. To use a frequently overused phrase, the assembly line was a game changer.
Now it appears as though the wheel is turning back toward crafted products, or as crafted as an additive manufacturing (AM) part can get. In collaboration with Stratasys, inventor Jim Kor is building a car using AM to produce the parts. You may have heard of the Urbee a few years ago, when Kor first rolled out his prototype vision of what the car would look like (which was also made with AM), but now Kor claims he’s ready to begin production.
The Urbee is intended to be an economy-sized, hybrid vehicle that can get over 200 mpg. The electronic portion of the car can be recharged at home by simply plugging it in, but Kor has ideas about using solar panels on garages or even mini-windmills to generate enough electricity to reduce the Urbee’s carbon footprint even further.
“Other hybrids on the road today were developed by applying ‘green’ standards to traditional vehicle formats,” said Kor, president and CTO of Kor Ecologic. “Urbee was designed with environmentally sustainable principles dictating every step of its design.”
According to Kor, the Urbee could only be manufactured using 3D printing. The complex internal geometries and customization offered by AM allowed him to design every piece and panel, with the result that the Urbee has far fewer parts than other vehicles, and is lighter to boot. In place of the pile of parts usually required to construct a single piece of a car, Kor has used AM to combine the parts into complete sections. Kor claims the Urbee can be built using a grand total of 50 separate parts.
For the moment, constructing a single Urbee is more expensive than might be practical, but Kor hopes to generate enough interest in the design to develop larger scale production printers. (See DE’s coverage of current large-scale AM here.) So far, Kor has orders for 14 cars, plus one for himself. He plans for the first trip in the Urbee to be a cross-country jaunt, with room for a passenger and his dog in the rear seat.
Below you’ll find the promo video for the Urbee.
Source: Pioneer Press