The state of the art in automotive technology embraces a myriad of possible solutions for alternative transportation; just think about the changes and progress you have witnessed in your lifetime.
In the age of information technology, the speed of change and progress has no limits or borders. In parallel, remember the typewriter, the dot-matrix printer, the ball-type printer? Now, everyone uses a laser or inkjet printer for two-dimensional, flat-sheet printing.
What could you do if you wanted to create not text or images, but objects? Obviously, that has occupied inventors for some time.
Three-dimensional printers have arrived. Expensive at first, and only available to industry and institutions, 3-D printers have made great progress during the last decade. For a few thousand dollars, you can now purchase a desktop 3-D printer.
It caused a sensation a few years ago, when someone somewhere had accomplished to ‘print’ a functioning, adjustable wrench in one smooth operation.
As an inkjet printer lays down tiny droplets of ink to create a photograph, a 3-D printer deposits minute amounts of material in layers, increasing in height with every pass of the print-head; Think of it as a computerized glue gun.
Large size 3-D printers are used in various industries to fabricate prototype items quicker than metal parts could be produced. This new method is termed additive manufacturing, in contrast to subtractive, where material is removed with a lathe or grinding machine.
Items produced with a 3-d printer can be recycled, whereas material is lost with the conventional method .
Just now, in early 2014, Local Motors, an innovative vehicle design firm in Arizona, is working with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to further develop additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing. ORNL is managed for the United States Department of Energy’s Office of Science by the Tennessee University’s Battelle Institute; The laboratory does basic research in physical sciences.
“By invoking the principle of open-source, this partnership – and future efforts like it – will drive a true paradigm shift in hardware product development and automotive manufacturing technologies,” said Jay Rogers, Co-Founder and CEO of Local Motors. “Just as exciting as the vision of delivering the first direct digital manufactured car, is that we will be engaging future consumers to contribute and evangelize its creation. We are living in a time when speed to market trumps slow-going protectionism. Local Motors’ open development platform is what delivers this very speed.”
“Its goal is to help industry adopt new manufacturing technologies that reduce life-cycle energy and greenhouse gas emissions, lower production cost and create new products and opportunities for high paying jobs”, he continued.
In plain English, Local Motors and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are working to produce the world's first production 3-D printed vehicle.
Talk about progress !
Gutenberg started the information age with the printing press, it could be argued, but where will 3-D printing take us?
Already, you can print model cars of Honda-designed concept vehicles on your home desktop 3-D printer with data supplied from this website.
Today’s young automotive designers are practicing their future craft with LEGO blocks and stylus, the next generation will show their talent with home-printed, rolling scale models. At that time, ORNL and Local Motors’ efforts may have the tools for full-size models for the age of alternative transportation.