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Is Digital Manufacturing of Cars Possible?

Digital manufacturing service RedEye On Demand and its parent company Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS) have announced a collaboration with KOR EcoLogic to produce Urbee 2, claimed to be the first road-ready, fuel-efficient car built using 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, technologies.

Targeted to hit the road in two years, Urbee 2 represents a significant milestone in the world of traditional assembly-line manufacturing, says the company.

“A future where 3D printers build cars may not be far off after all,” said Jim Bartel, Stratasys vice president of RedEye On Demand.

“Jim Kor and his team at KOR EcoLogic had a vision for a more fuel-efficient car that would change how the world approaches manufacturing and today we’re achieving it. Urbee 2 shows the manufacturing world that anything really is possible. There are few design challenges additive manufacturing capabilities can’t solve.”

[ Also Read: Can We Hope to See Crash-Proof Cars by 2020? ]

The KOR EcoLogic team will fully design Urbee 2 in CAD files, sending them to RedEye On Demand for building through Stratasys’ Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process.

This process applies thermoplastics in layers from the bottom up, yielding parts that are durable, precise and repeatable. The finished two-passenger vehicle will comprise 40 large, intricate 3D-printed parts compared to hundreds of parts in the average car.

[ Also Read: How 3D Is Making Inroads in the Entertainment World ]

The strong, lightweight vehicle will be designed to go 70 mph on the freeway, using a biofuel like 100 percent ethanol. The goal is for Urbee 2 to drive from San Francisco to New York City on only 10 gallons of fuel, setting a new world record.

[ Also Read: How to Drive Digital and Social Cars ]

Urbee 2, which stands for urban electric, follows in the tracks of its conceptual predecessor, Urbee 1.

Produced in 2011 as a partnership between KOR EcoLogic, Stratasys and RedEye On Demand, Urbee 1 proved that 3D printing could in fact produce large, strong parts that meet accurate specifications of a car body.

Urbee 2 will take the basic concepts of Urbee 1 to a higher level, including features like a fully functioning heater, windshield wipers and mirrors. It was announced Tuesday, March 5.

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