by wjw on September 28, 2014

Here’s the Strati, the first car created by a 3D printer.

Well, except for the mechanical bits.  The parts that actually make it drive an’ stuff.  The parts that make it an actual car.  Those aren’t printed, those are manufactured elsewhere.

But still.  Pretty, no?

In the old days, people would buy a frame and engine, and then bring them to a coachmaker who would build a custom body to order.  This is like that, only faster and cheaper.

So soon we can all have custom cars.  How cool will that be?


C K September 28, 2014 at 3:43 am

I’m still waiting for the ability to order a custom-configured car online, put down a honkin’ deposit, have a car with the exact combination of color and accessories you want roll off the assembly line, and get it shipped to your dealership for delivery. Everything is in place to do this; someone just needs to write the code and bring it on line.

DensityDuck September 28, 2014 at 8:24 am

It’s like all those breathless articles about 3D-printed guns. ZOMG LIBERTOCALYPSE!!! GUN CONTROL IS USELESS!!

Except, um, what is 3D printed is the handle and the stock and the thing that you bolt around the actual gun parts. All the stuff that makes bullets go in one end and come out the barrel is still made of metal, the old-fashioned way, and it’s still subject to all the same laws.

Esebian September 28, 2014 at 11:00 am

Except the part of “we” that are poor.

That part of “we” that’s already surpassed super-majority and grows by the second.

TRX September 28, 2014 at 12:29 pm

“Yes, but the technology is getting better rapidly, and soon you will be able to download a file and print an AK-47, an iPhone, or a flying car!”

There’s not much use trying to explain to people why that’s never going to work. They just don’t want to hear.

In one of his autobiographies, Richard Feynman talked about being called to the Pentagon and being offered the leadership of a new, mini-Manhattan Project being formed by the US Army Tank Command. The Army was trying to reduce the vulnerability of its fuel supply chains; WWII had seen them shipping fuel halfway around the world from the well to the combat zone. They’d successfully interdicted much of the German and Japanese fuel supplies, and they didn’t want anyone else doing it to them in the future.

The generals figured if exotic radioactive metals could be made to explode, it was only reasonable that dirt could be made to burn. So instead of shipping fuel from Oklahoma to Europe, you’d just hand a grunt a shovel and tell him to “fill ‘er up!” And they were prepared to throw a whole bunch of money at it to make it happen.

These weren’t stupid or ignorant men, but they simply had no understanding of what they were asking for. Feynman realized that explaining why it wouldn’t work would probably be futile, and declined.

That’s the sort of conceptual gap the 3D printer people have. They can’t see the difference between laser sintering a metallic powder and running strings of ABS or PLA plastic… but the technology will improve!

The main attraction is the idea they can buy a magic box, download a file from the internet, and the magic cornucopia machine will make them whatever they want. Which will work, for certain minor and specific definitions of “work”.

Like Density Duck said, the 3-D printed “AR-15” is just the plastic bracket that holds various subassemblies togather. Over on, a forum member made an AR lower out of a pine board from the hardware store.

Back a few years ago there was a breathless media splash about a group that had invented a bicycle made entirely of bamboo, and how it was going to revolutionize transportation on poor countries. I probably checked two dozen web sites; all ran the story verbatim. Someone had stuck some lengths of bamboo into metal brackets using epoxy glue. The wires, wheels, forks, handlebars, brakes, sprockets, chain, etc. were all standard bicycle parts. I guess they came from the ball-bearing bush and the tire vine. In fact, people had made bamboo bicycle frames decades earlier, before moving on to synthetic composites.

On the bookshelf across the room, I have steam engineering books from the early 1800s to the early 1960s. I’m not a steam expert, but I can fake it if I have to. And that’s why I could never read “steampunk.” Clarke said “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” No, your steam-powered Victorian mecha-warriors aren’t going to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and there aren’t going to be any steam-powered flying cars with Babbage autopilots…

Paul Cooper September 28, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Interesting car, but I’m a little cloudy on why that chose that name.

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