Paying an homage to the past, Toyota has created a one-off replica of the 1990s Supra for the online-only SEMA Show, SEMA360. The Toyota GR Supra Sport Top built-off of last year’s GR Supra Heritage Edition by deploying 3D printing to create a removable roof.
“We had such a great response to the Heritage Edition last year,” said Ed Laukes, Group Vice President of Toyota Marketing. “I asked the guys at our Motorsports Garage if we could take the Heritage Edition to the next level and make a Supra with that removable roof everyone remembers from the MKIV?'”
A good deal of the Supra’s notability comes from the Fast and Furious franchise, as the fourth-generation Supra became the modded star of drag races during a time when imports were at their most popular for racing aficionados. 2019’s version of the vehicle added a few elements to the existing fifth-generation GR Supra that echoed the fourth gen, such as rounded taillights and the basket-handle spoiler.
This year’s edition added a new feature: a removable roof. The video below explains how the design team came about 3D printing a new roof through a bit of a coincidence. When removing the roof for various modification reasons, it became apparent that it couldn’t simply be added back onto the vehicle. In turn, the team turned to 3D printing two separate roof panels that can be stored in the trunk when not in use.
To make a fully open cabin, Toyota engineers had to account for the lack of structural integrity that resulted from removing the roof. For that reason, the team had to shore up large portions of the chassis from below the car, from the engine bay to the tub. The outer body structures of the roof were also strengthened so that they could operate with or without the 3D printed panels.
The roof pieces were 3D printed by Toyota Motor North America Research and Development in Ann Arbor, Mich. for the Toyota’s Motorsport Technical Center in Plano, Texas working on the car. The material used was Accura Xtreme plastic from 3D Systems, though we are still trying to determine what system was used to print the parts.
In this case, it seems as though 3D printing was used in a crunch for a concept car headed to a trade show, but the technology has more than proven itself for limited part runs for a number of low-volume vehicles, whether they be concept cars, racers, or luxury vehicles. As a technology, 3D printing is just not quite reaching the throughput necessary for mass production vehicles. However, it really feels as though we’re almost there and, in 2021, we may very well hear the first announcement of components 3D printed for mass produced economy vehicles.
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