This week Japan’s oldest car manufacturer Daihatsu announced that they are collaborating with local designers and artists to offer customizable 3D printable “Effect Skins” for their new Copen 2-door convertible. 3D printers manufactured by 3D printing industry leader Stratasys will be used to custom make the several decorative features that can be placed on the cars. Daihatsu is one of the first automotive companies to offer customizable, 3D printed, end-use parts to their customers as a feature. Once the customer has ordered their designs, Daihatsu will be able to 3D print and ship the parts within two weeks, a process that Daihatsu said would have traditionally taken more than two months.
In only a few years time, 3D printing has evolved from primarily a prototyping technology to being used for factory tooling, and now it is making the transition into short-run, end-use products. Daihatsu partnered with several well-known Japanese designers to use 3D printing to offer their consumers a high level of customization not seen in the automobile industry before. Kota Nezu from industrial design company Znug Design, Inc. and 3D creator Sun Junjie are among the designers working with the automobile company, and they created a total of 15 different effect skin patterns.
Each of the skin patterns consist of either a geometric or an organic pattern, including designs like a basket weave, bubbles and a starburst pattern. The panels can be affixed to select areas of each car — front and rear bumpers, or the fenders, in any combination. Each panel will be custom 3D printer for each car. The customer can even customize the selected pattern by adjusting the parameters of the pattern designs, making the pattern larger, smaller or even irregular. This will allow Daihatsu car owners to make their vehicles’ decorative features truly unique and thanks to 3D printing they will never face the parts that they want being out of stock or unavailable.
“What would have taken two to three months to develop can now be produced in two weeks. We believe on-demand production [with 3D printing] offers definite benefits to supply chain efficiencies, and it allows easy access for customers,” explained Osamu Fujishita, General Manager, Corporate Planning Department, Brand DNA Office, Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd.
The skin patterns will be made available in the ten different color materials that are currently supported by Stratasys Fortus 3D printers. All of the effect skins will be 3D printed on Stratasys’ Fortus Production 3D Printers using their advanced ASA thermoplastic materials. The ASA material is extremely durable and can easily take the beating that being in the open elements will deliver. The material produces parts that are highly UV resistant with colors that won’t fade, won’t warp, and have a smooth and clean surface finish. The ten colors available include red, orange, yellow, green, dark blue, white, dark gray, light gray, ivory and black.
As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of small and compact automobiles, Daihatsu is known for their low-cost and quirky cars that are often quite colorful. Their vehicles are sold by Toyota under the brand name Scion throughout the United States and Canada, and they offer a wide range of decorative features and designs for customers to choose from. While currently the 3D printed effect skins are only going to be available in Japan, given Stratasys’ global reach, an expansion of the service could be possible with little to no problems. Let’s discuss this project further over in the 3D Printed Effect Skins forum thread at 3DPB.com.