The unveiling of the first prototype URBEE, with its completed body, occurred at the TEDxWinnipeg event on September 15th at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG). The unveiling was a milestone for Urbee as they are a small group of designers and engineers in Winnipeg. Jim Kor, owner of Kor Product Design presented 'Rational Automotive Design for the Human Race' at TEDx. The event featured 8 speakers, each doing a TED Talk (18 minutes each, ... IDEAS worth Sharing). The car was unveiled in the lobby and was the first time the finished 3-D printed body was shown. This is still a prototype and only 1 car like this exists.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Would you see 3D printing as a viable production method for a commercial proposition, or was that simply used for prototyping?
Answer: When we started our partnership with Stratasys, in Minneapolis (the company that 3-D printed our body), we had in mind that this process would be used ONLY for prototyping. The 'we' I am referring to is our Urbee Team. People within Stratasys have been working very hard at making this process a viable production method (called 'digital manufacturing'). I now believe that this is indeed a viable production method. 3-D printing has many advantages. From a design point of view, just to name a few advantages:
1) There is no hard tooling required, the designer is essentially free to place the material wherever it is needed, and each production part can be made unique.
2) This process could revolutionize how we make things. It has certainly changed my way of thinking about manufacturing.
3) Just as an aside: The SAME computer files that made the scale model were used to make the full-size body panels. This way, we knew the big panels would all fit properly (the model was a test).
Question: Might we ultimately get to the point where Urbee body designs could be made available for download then locally produced?
Answer: This process of 3-D printing turned into 'digital manufacturing' would change the way we replace parts within machines. You would have an inventory of computer files on hand, stored somewhere in the world, and utilize the closest 3-D printing facility available to the machine that needs the repair part.
Question: What environmental considerations are made as part of the production process?
Answer: Environmentally this process holds promise because one only puts material where one needs it. It is an additive process, building the part essentially one 'molecule' of material at a time, ultimately with no waste. This process can do many materials, and our goal would be to use fully-recycled materials.
Question: When will we see people driving them on our roads?
Answer: There are many people in the world now working with this process of 3-D printing, and they are doing some amazing, mind-bending things. Stratasys is at the leading edge of this. Regarding our car, this car that you now see runs, and it does have a 3-D printed body. We plan on building a second car that would more fully utilize this 3-D printing process throughout the body, interior, and even parts of the chassis.
Question: When will we all be driving one?
Answer: I don't know. All I know is that I personally will very likely be driving, on the road, in a prototype car with a 3-D printed body by 2012. Which is pretty amazing. Regarding when a production Urbee would be available for sale ..... I am a Mechanical Engineer, so I am quite conservative, but, I believe best-case scenario would be 2014. This would be the first practical, roadworthy car that could run on solely Renewable Energy.
For more information, visit: www.urbee.net