As many of you already know, I'm a big fan of 3D printing, especially for its potential for use for cars and car parts. So when reader Kevin sent us this article about "the world's first 3D printed racecar" I was very, and possibly visibly, interested.
The article's headline is a bit deceptive, as the car is really only partially built with rapid-prototyping methods. The drivetrain is an innovative electric drivetrain and there appears to be some manner of more conventionally-built space frame chassis, but the entire body of the car, including side pods and cooling channels, is entirely 3D printed. The large-scale 3D printing was achieved with Mammoth Stereolithography machines from Materialise.
The car's body went from design to tangible object in just three weeks.
The car was designed and built by Belgian engineering student group Formula Group T. The car, named Areion, was built for competition in Formula Student races. It's pretty damn impressive. The 617 lb car can go from a dead stop to a mile-a-minute in about 3.2 seconds with its 224 HP electric motor.
Taking advantage of what 3D printing can do, the Areion has a shark-skin like texture on the surface of the nose of the car, which could help with aerodynamic efficiency, similarly to how a shark's own skin permits more rapid passage through water. The body is also printed with all support clips and connection points built in for ease of assembly/disassembly, and cooling pods were printed with complex inner channels that can cyclone out dirt and material from entering the cooling system.
I really believe that 3D printing will be a very big deal in our future, and I can't wait to see what it will do for the automotive industry. I think it will do for manufacturing what desktop publishing did for document creation and graphic design— make it vastly more accessible and foster an explosion of new ideas and products. Printing a race car body is just the first step to emailing a file to your preferred large-scale 3D printing company and driving home with a brand-new shooting brake body on your old chassis.
It's going to be fun, and a little fast racecar is a terrific place to start.