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by Tim Beissmann

The Urbee – the world’s only ‘printed’ car – has made its first public appearance in Manitoba, Canada.

CarAdvice regulars may remember Kor EcoLogic’s Urbee from a story we published late last year. Now, for the first time, the complete printed body shell has been revealed to the public.

Printed? Yes. The Urbee’s Canadian designers used 3D printing technology to build the car’s body layer by layer, placing ultra-thin composite materials on top of each other to fuse them in a process called ‘additive manufacturing’.

Kor EcoLogic founder and Urbee project leader, Jim Kor, said using 3D printing to produce cars could be much more environmentally friendly than the current method of bolting bits of metal and plastic together.

“It is an additive process, building the part essentially one ‘molecule’ of material at a time, ultimately with no waste,” Mr Kor said. “One only puts material where one needs it.”

He explained the process can print many different materials, and said the Urbee team had a goal to eventually use fully recycled materials.

“This process could revolutionise how we make things. It has certainly changed my way of thinking about manufacturing,” Mr Kor said.

So far only the Urbee’s body panels are printed, but Mr Kor hopes entire cars can be ‘digitally manufactured’ in the future.

There is currently only one Urbee prototype (and even this one still isn’t finished), and to produce a second-generation prototype Kor EcoLogic will need to raise US$1 million.

Following that, Mr Kor says full-scale production is the long-term goal, with best-case scenario tipped to be 2014.

Under its printed body, the Urbee is powered by a simple hybrid system, which combines a 6kW single-cylinder engine, an electric motor and a battery pack. Despite its diminutive size, its designers insist it will reach 100km/h, and will do it in around 12 seconds.

At just 101.6cm tall (or 40-inches – think Ford GT40), the Urbee rides on three skinny motorcycle wheels. The team claims it will use just 1.4 litres/100km, and optional solar panels have the potential to increase efficiency even further. There’s no word yet on the Urbee’s range.

Do you think digital manufacturing has a role to play in the future of the automotive industry? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.




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