Kevin Lo’s award-winning 3D printed car design.
The future of driving may not just be autonomous, it could be 3D printed.
This week, Local Motors, the company that brought you the world’s first 3D-printed car (the Strati), took another significant step forward on the road to highway-ready 3D printed vehicles: On Tuesday, it awarded 39-year-old Kevin Lo $7,500 for his 3D-printed car design.
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Lo’s design, Reload Redacted — Swim Sport, took first place in Local Motors Project Redacted3D-printed car design competition. The goal of the competition, which Local Motors pitched to its design community in May, was to come up with a suitable, highway-ready design for the next generation of 3D-printed cars.
The winning design, which was selected by the Local Motors design community and a panel of judges that included former Tonight show TV host and car aficionado Jay Leno, will be the foundation of Local Motors’ first 3D-printed road-ready car. In a release, Leno said he chose Lo’sdesign because, “You need something that makes you go ‘What’s that?’”
With just three weeks to come up with a design, Lo, who works full-time at HP, spent nights and weekends working in PTC Creo Design software. He then exported the design to a CAD file and rendered the image you see above and throughout this story in Keyshot. Lo told me that for his design he intentionally chose form over function. “The idea behind my entry was you build that carbon-fiber tub [which would hold the batteries, motor, chassis and wheels] and you can put whatever body you want on it,” said Lo.
Kevin Lo designed the heart of his Reload Redacted 3D printed car to be a a simple tub.
According to Lo, his design has some clear benefits over Local Motors’ original 3D-printed car, the Strati. “If you look at Strati, it was meant to be a one-piece body — which is a beautiful idea — but the reality is if you take it to a highway level… you have to include safety,” said Lo, who explained that, in the event of a collision, any part could be easily removed and reprinted. In fact, Lo thinks drivers could even upgrade when they swap out damaged 3D printed parts.
Imagine you damage the front fender of your 3D-printed car. If the fender is Version One, you could swap out for Version Two or, Lo noted, Local Motors could use the information derived from the damaged part to improve the new part and actually increase its crash rating.
One of the requirements for the Local Motors competition is that the designers used off-the-shelf parts. As a result, the tail lights are from Mazda’s new Miata.
For now, the car, which bears the design influences of Astin Martin, Lotus, Jaguar, and Chevy’s Corvette, is still just in digital form. Local Motors will not necessarily print Lo’s exact design, but it will influence the company’s first low-speed electric vehicle, set to arrive early next year, and the highway-ready model that Local Motors expects to start printing and selling before 2017.
I asked Lo, who lives with his wife and two children just outside of Portland, Oregon, if he would drive his family in a 3D-printed car. “I would like to think, yes. In 10 years, everyone is going to be driving a car with 3D printing in it.”