3D printed supercar is road ready
San Francisco, California - Ford went hi-tech recently when it offered fans in South Africa the ability to three-dimensionally print a plastic scale model of one of their popular current or historic cars.
But in California, a small technology start-up company with global intentions, Divergent Microfactories, has launched a business model that will help small producers use three-dimensional printing technology to print real cars that can be driven.
Ford fans can now download digital images for Ford vehicles at the first-ever, automaker-authorised one-stop online store for 3D-printable vehicle files.
The Ford 3D Store allows customers to use advanced technology to make their own models of Ford vehicles of the size and material they desire, or simply opt to purchase a 3D digital file from a growing library of more than 1000 Ford images.
Ford Global Brand Licensing manager Mark Bentley siad: “3D printing at home is a growing trend, and it makes sense for us to offer our customers a chance to make their own 3D Ford models.
“At Ford, we’re using 3D printing every day to rapidly prototype parts, and now we want to share that fun with our fans.”
According to Juniper research, annual sales of desktop 3D printers will exceed one million units by 2018, from an estimated 44 000 in 2014.
Currently available Ford models include the new Focus ST and Fiesta ST, both of which South Africans will be familiar with, as they’re available in Ford showrooms.
Printed models and digital files for additional Ford vehicles will be available at a later date.
The 3D-printed models available to order are 1:32 scale in plastic, but purchasing a digital image allows users to have a Ford model 3D-printed to the scale and of the material they choose, either on their own printer or by an outside source.
Professional 3D printers can create a model in materials ranging from soft plastics to sandstone and even various metals.
TurboSquid, a leader in marketing 3D image files commonly used in video games, built the new site for Ford and will provide order fulfilment.
When a buyer purchases a model or digital image, he or she must register with the site and agree that the item will not be used commercially.
But while the founder of Ford, Henry Ford, was the father of current mass production systems, Divergent Microfactories in San Francisco is hoping to become the new Henry Ford by yet again introducing a revolutionary new method to the world.
As such, the company is way beyond printing models. The car it designed and of which it has 3D-printed major components can not only be driven, it has the kind of performance that puts it smack in the middle of the supercar bracket.
And yet, with modern technology involved, it is also considered a very clean (read green) way of building a supercar.
The method the company devised was “a disruptive new approach to auto manufacturing that incorporates 3D printing to dramatically reduce the pollution, materials and capital costs associated with building automobiles and other large complex structures”.
The extremely lightweight Blade, the first prototype supercar based on this new technology, was introduced by Divergent Microfactories’ founder and chief executive Kevin Czinger a few days ago.