We've covered the strange story of the Equus Bass before, and strange ownership aside, it's an interesting car in many ways. And now there's one more — it may be the first car for sale that uses 3D printed parts directly on the finished product, as well as in more indirect methods.
SolidConcepts is a 3D printing company that worked with Equus to build the Bass, and they've put together a video and an article outlining the role of 3D printing in the car. It's impressive, and gives a good glimpse as to how the future for very low-volume manufacturers can be made much easier thanks to 3D printing technologies.
Here's a description of the scope of the 3D printing work from the article:
The majority of the components Solid Concepts 3D Printed were used as master patterns for casting. Cast urethanes are an economical alternative to injection molding for projects requiring low volumes of parts. Cast urethanes begin with a 3D Printed or CNC'd master pattern. Once Solid Concepts creates master patterns, the parts are treated to post-processing to achieve the desired surface finish. Then a silicone mold is formed around the master pattern. The mold is then cast with advanced polymer urethanes, revealing strong pre-production parts. The casted components were assembled onto Equus' BASS770 after further finishing. Not all 3D Printed parts were used as master patterns; some components were 3D printed and then chromed or simply assembled on the car after post-processing. "We did the grille in FDM," says Jordan Golden, Project Engineer at Solid Concepts. "Equus used the grille for form, fit and aesthetic checks on their prototype model. We also created SLS pieces that Equus chromed and used as different levers for seat adjustment." Other 3D printed components were spin casted, such as the chrome lettering on the car. Many of the cast urethane components in the interior are leather wrapped.
I think most interesting are the parts that were printed, then finished and chromed and installed right on the car. Right now, it's mostly only useful for knobs and bezels and things like that, but we're getting closer to being able to use materials that are strong enough for real, stressed usage, and that's the first step to full on-demand manufacturing.
Eventually, it's easy to imagine a day where you spec out the car you want online, dragging and dropping parts onto an on-screen chassis, and then sending it to be printed at a huge, local car-printing facility. The future's looking interesting indeed.