It’s still hard to believe that 3D printed cars are a reality. They’re not exactly commonplace, but they do exist, in the form of models such as Local Motors’ Strati and Divergent 3D’s Blade. While we’re not yet to the point at which 3D printed cars are buzzing around the highways alongside their conventionally manufactured counterparts, we’re getting closer, and it may not be long until our police are riding around in 3D printed cruisers.
Recently, the Israel Police force unveiled the first-ever 3D printed police vehicle. It’s a snazzy-looking black and silver Jeep-style convertible, and it was introduced at a recent defense technology conference. It’s not operational yet, but it has impressed those who have seen it, including several top security and intelligence officials.
Designing the vehicle was a creative endeavor, involving cobbling together components from several other vehicles to supplement the 3D printed parts. The steering wheel is taken from a Citroen Berlingo, while the power steering system comes from a police helicopter and the motor has been transplanted from an electric scooter. The body of the vehicle was 3D printed and donated by MASSIVit 3D, as Oded Levin, who worked on the project, told 3DPrint.com.
A small, hand-sized model was built first, before the full-sized car was produced. The 3D printed car was given the number 007, partly in honor of James Bond actor Roger Moore, who passed away during the project. The vehicle was presented at Israel’s annual defense technology conference, which the police force hosted this year.
“I’ve been keeping tabs on the project for a long time, and I’m happy to see that not only is police participation in the conference increasing, but the police undertook to sponsor and host this year’s event,” said Israel Police Commissioner Insp. Gen. Roni Alsheikh.
The appearance of a 3D printed car – operational or not – within a major police force is another sign that 3D printing is continuing to be considered more seriously as the future of automobile manufacturing. Cars are changing, and as we inch closer to a future of autonomous vehicles, 3D printing is concurrently evolving as a large-scale manufacturing technique. The idea of 3D printed cars might still raise some eyebrows, but the benefits can’t be ignored. We’ve spent some time talking to Divergent 3D about their automobile manufacturing technology, and it’s always worth taking another look at it, as the company’s platform neatly sums up why 3D printing is so important to the automotive industry.
“Divergent 3D’s technology can reduce the vehicle structure weight of a standard five passenger car by over 50 percent and reduce the number of parts per vehicle by over 75 percent,” CEO Kevin Czinger told us in an interview a few months ago. “Just as importantly, it can reduce the upfront capital cost required for hard metal tooling and stamping equipment (along with the associated factory costs) by up to 10x or more. The cost implications of our technology for automakers everywhere are huge. We’re also proud of the environmental benefits of our approach to car production—which we call Planet-Saving Manufacturing™—and intend to unleash a 3D-printing- driven rebirth of the auto industry as one that uses far less energy and natural resources, produces less waste, and manufactures vehicles that require much less energy to operate (whatever the source of that energy may be).”
The cost benefits certainly can’t be ignored; imagine how much money a department could save, and invest elsewhere, by turning to 3D printing for its fleets. The Israeli Police force has the right idea, and it won’t be surprising if other police departments follow suit before long. Discuss in the 3D Printed Police Car forum at 3DPB.com.