The automotive industry is known for being continually engaged in the art of nonstop improvement and innovations few can usually imagine before enticing new products are unveiled at annual shows. Highly competitive and customer-driven, automotive companies are driven by the need to top the competition and draw clients into the showrooms where they ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ over next year’s futuristic looking models that are usually extremely pricey and over the average person’s budget. That may change in near decades, as 3D printing eliminates the time factor as well the price factor in a multitude of sectors.
Most people love to check out cars, and especially concept vehicles, because they thrill us with an extreme wow factor, and give us a tangible piece of evidence to see what will really be available in the future.
EDAG has a clue regarding the role 3D printing technology is going to play in the future of car manufacturing, and they are well out of the starting gate in developing concept vehicles that employ the use of 3D printing for parts, mainly starting with a complete outer shell or skin. EDAG has been unflagging in their vision for melding cars of the future and 3D printing together, displaying impressive progress with each headline they steal.
We reported on EDAG earlier this year, in March, as they spotlighted their EDAG Genesis, speeding onto the scene at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, and garnering a great deal of attention and headlines with their concept car that features a 3D printed shell, inspired by the turtle, in a display of biomimcry. Putting out the word that they expect vehicles to be completely 3D printed in the next decades, EDAG sees the 3D printing process becoming even more refined (no surprise there, as that seems to be happening on a daily basis) for building vehicles with the use of a continuous strand of carbon fiber as a backbone for manufacturing a durable one-piece outer shell.
Topping themselves for next year, as car designers are apt to do, EDAG is preparing for the 2015 Geneva Motor Show with their next model, the EDAG Light Cocoon. The Cocoon features more outdoorsy mimicry, this time in using the essence of the leaf, with help in material design and a shout-out to German outdoor supply retailer Jack Wolfskin, which supplied the ‘Texapore Softshell’ textile to afford the greatest weather protection for the concept car.
“Even if it sounds futuristic to begin with, this approach has its own special appeal: weighing no more than 19 g/m², the Jack Wolfskin material supports maximum lightweight design requirements with minimum weight,” said EDAG CTO Jörg Ohlsen. “To give you a comparison: this extremely strong material is four times lighter than standard copier paper.”
“Combined with the topologically optimised, additively manufactured structure, it offers enormous potential and stimulus for the ultimate lightweight construction of the future.”
The leaf inspired the vision for the outer skin, as well as producing the central concept for the futuristic car — its lightweight quality, which of course helps any customer envision speed. Referring to the car as having a ‘bionically inspired structure,’ additive manufacturing has of course been put to use — and put to the test — for producing the Light Cocoon. The outer textile material which makes up the ‘skin’ stretches, and is durable. The skin is also, as would be a necessity for any vehicle, able to hold its own in weather conditions.
“We are pursuing the vision of sustainability – as demonstrated by nature: lightweight, efficient, and without any waste,” explains EDAG’s head designer, Johannes Barckmann. “The result is the ‘EDAG Light Cocoon’ which presents a stable, branch-like load bearing structure from the 3D printer, which only uses material where it is absolutely necessary.”
It’s a well-known fact that the automotive industry has been crippled with economic struggles of late. The technology of 3D printing may be throwing car designers and producers not only a lifeline, but a way to completely reinvent manufacturing of vehicles around the world. Despite all overall struggles, this is an industry that always operates on the visionary side and is open to change.
3D printing has already made an impact in manufacturing, and a number of companies specialize in supplying additive manufacturing systems and materials to the automotive industry which result in design innovation, faster manufacturing, and a much lower bottom line. With the use of metal 3D printing and selective laser melting (SLM) practices, many components are already being produced at significantly less cost to their manufacturers, with production times being cut from days and weeks to mere hours. There is less energy usage. Less waste. No one with any business savvy is going to scoff at or turn away from those types of benefits and numbers.
As 3D printing and manufacturing become heavily invested together, EDAG is making it clear that they are getting a headstart on most of the competition with both the Genesis and Light Cocoon. With such vision, technique, and preparation, their designs will be ready to ride when 3D printing truly explodes en masse on the vehicle manufacturing scene.
Do you really think it will take 10 or 20 years for 3D printing to transform the automotive industry? Have you 3D printed any sort of parts or accessories for your own vehicle? Share your thoughts with us in the EDAG 3D Printed Light Cocoon forum over at 3DPB.com.
Below is a video featuring the EDAG Genesis at this year’s Geneva Motor Show.