It’s easy to look at a 3D printer and think to yourself that it’s amazing how this technology can blow our minds on a continual basis, as we see a variety of innovations affecting nearly every industry you can think of—from apparel to aerospace. It’s also easy to lose sight of what is behind that machine’s magic: some seriously creative human brain power! Often, you’ll realize too that the companies behind many of these ‘why didn’t we think of that before?’ types of inventions have been responsible for such things many times over already as technology and concept have come together over the decades. Now, many are allowing the customer to put more interaction into the creation process as well.
Rolls-Royce is a perfect example as they work on new prototypes for luxury cars carrying us into the future. While the idea of 3D printed cars may be out there already, from those being manufactured and available soon to the public via Local Motors to the newly on the scene electric 4ekolka, Rolls-Royce is using the technology to go one step further with an idea that offers a glimpse into our driving future. Who knows what will be happening internally in our vehicles further in the decades ahead, or if we’ll even be driving our cars ourselves, but as for the external, Rolls-Royce also sees 3D printing as the catalyst for allowing drivers to completely personalize their vehicles. And of course—these aren’t just any vehicles.
We’ve seen this concept with many other items on a smaller—and much less expensive—scale where the foundation of the body is the same but parts can be put over it and personalized. The Rolls-Royce is already a pretty magnificent beast of a car. Now, just imagine rolling up to a red light in your completely customized, one of a kind, model!
“The space frame approach will allow for much greater flexibility in the outer form of car in the future,” says GilesTaylor, Rolls-Royce’s head of design. “We could in effect fit a bespoke skin over the top of it when the technology catches us up. Although it’s a real look into the future, the 103EX is a confident expression of what will happen. And we can see a time when a client will come to Rolls-Royce, express their vision of what they want and we’ll be able to turn around that individual design in a very efficient way. It’s really a return to the ethos of coachbuilding that informed car making over a century ago.”
Taylor’s current project at Rolls-Royce is the 103EX, one of their more futuristic designs that will indeed allow for not just the inside to be customized for the owner, but also the outside.
“Fundamental to the idea of the 103EX is that it will allow the possibility of a fully personalized car, such that nobody’s Rolls-Royce would look like any other – each would look unique, and not just at the level of, for instance, the color of the upholstery,” Taylor explains.
Bespoke cars are certainly an exciting idea for the consumer, who enjoys all the pleasure of having a perfect fit. But for the manufacturers and those setting regulations, it means much greater complexity. Option packs abound already, and with the potential for complete customization as a trend in the future, new standards will have to be set.
“The possibility of a fully bespoke car will exist but the legislative changes in the automotive industry will make it tricky,” says Uday Senapati, the head of technical operations at Bentley’s Mulliner operations, “and regulations are only likely to get more stringent, with the advent of autonomous cars, for example.”
He points out that when it comes to regulations, safety and crash standards are non-negotiable. He sees all of this coming together to push for ‘better performing composites’ overall, as well as the use of parts that are more modular.
“…putting together a car together becomes more like working with Lego bricks,” explains Senapati. “Certainly we get customers calling with ‘a fantastic idea for a car’ every week. The question is just how far we will be able to respond to those requests in the future.”
There’s no doubt that as shoppers today, we are pretty spoiled. We like things to our exact specifications, and we want it fast. While that might be a headache for one vendor, there’s generally another ready to step up and take their place in pleasing any consumer. This makes competition in the marketplace fierce, and with the consumer benefiting from much greater convenience and comfort.
Taylor points out that as signs point toward these comprehensive levels of customization becoming the norm in the future, the benefits of 3D printing are likely what will make it possible. And it’s easy to see how with a great deal of effort and ingenuity on the part of the talented automotive designers, everything will fall into place with customization, speed in production, the ability to make new parts, and greater affordability all around.
While all of these new innovations do point toward the future, ironically, they also allow us to go back to enjoying past ideals of having one of a kind, handsomely crafted vehicles. Senapati points out too that with the level of customer involvement allowed in the customization of today, the beauty may often just be in the eye of the beholder. For now, in terms of customizations that are allowed, Senapati states that they ‘do not question the taste’ of requests that are made but that as they work into allowing for more comprehensive customization and how that will play out, they’ll have to see where the future leads. Discuss in the Rolls Royce forum at 3DPB.com.[Source /Images: South China Morning Post]