The future of automobiles is on display this week at Geneva Motor Show, and it looks like...a turtle.
Designed by German engineering firm EDAG, Genesis is an automobile body concept inspired by turtle shells — and 3D printed in a single, full-sized piece.
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Genesis's outer, shell-like chassis is reinforced inside with interlocking supports, resembling bone structures. The printing material was a carbon fiber, with thermoplastic materials applied to the exterior by robots.
When designing Genesis, EDAG experimented with several different 3D printing methods such as stereolithography, a process by which 3D printers put down layers of light-sensitive resin and then harden the resin with ultraviolet light.
However, ultimately EDAG found that the best process was also the most common: fused deposition modeling, or FDM — the technology used in most consumer printers from companies such as MakerBot or Cubify. In this process, the printer prints an object in layers of melted plastic or other liquified material, starting from the ground up. As each layer cools and hardens, another layer is added, allowing the printer to create complex and interlocking shapes that couldn't be done in a mold or by hand.
FDM works at any scale, which makes it ideal for large projects like Genesis. It can also be done in an open space because it doesn't create harmful fumes. At EDAG's lab, robotic extruders put down the melted polymer material to create the structure. Carbon fibers, added during the production process, make the Genesis body highly strong and durable.
The ultimate goal is to 3D print an entire car in one go.
"As for the target of using additive manufacturing [3D printing] to produce complete vehicle bodies: there is still a long way to go before this becomes an industrial application, so for the time being, it remains a vision," EDAG said in a press release.