just click print

What constitutes a unique product? Are the minute variations in hand made products like an e34 M5 enough to warrant that each example be labeled a unique product? I would argue no. While hand made products carry a certain aura, they are not unique.

Sergio - open top heaven

Sergio – open top heaven

Anything that is genuinely unique is incredibly expensive. Design and fabrication of unique parts is incredibly time and labor intensive. Today, building a one-off of something along the lines of Pinifarina’s Sergio will cost you millions of dollars and takes months to complete. 3D printing looks to change this in the future.

While Ford is demonstrating using 3D printing to test parts for production, it’s easy to see process eventually being applied to end-use products. I see 3D printing working in a manner similar to GM’s Hy-Wire concept from the early 2000’s. Basically, the chassis and drivetrain are standardized (and thus built in a conventional manner) while rest of the car is up for individual interpretation, allowing for unlimited variations with 3D printing. You can already see the the auto industry moving in this direction with examples like VW’s MQB platform. VW uses the chassis to underpin a variety of VW and Audi cars like the Golf, Jetta, A3 and TT.

3D printing is poised bring a renaissance to coachbuilders and small volume manufacturers. Unless you’re the Sultan of Brunei, this means one day you may actually be able to afford the car of your dreams, not merely someone’s else’s interpretation of the idea.

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