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Elon Musk's Hyperloop Concept Gets 3D Printed

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 12 comments
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What will the mass transit of the future look like? Elon Musk, founder of space transport company SpaceX and electric-car company Tesla Motors, thinks he knows — and he calls it the Hyperloop.

But maybe the sketches Musk recently released to the public are too abstract for you. That's where 3D printing comes in: A company called White Clouds has taken Musk's Hyperloop mock-up and 3D printed a to-scale model of what it might look like .

"When we saw the plans that Elon Musk was laying out for the future of transportation, we were really excited about the technology aspects and wanted to help promote the concept through 3D printing," said White Clouds CEO Jerry Ropelato. (Full disclosure: Ropelato is a board member and former CEO of TechMediaNetwork, which owns Tom's Guide).

MORE: Visions of the Future of Human Spaceflight

The Hyperloop would consist of cylindrical cars with tapered noses on both ends, which travel in an enclosed circular tube instead of on rails. This design is supposed to allow the Hyperloop cars to travel safely, without derailing or colliding, at high speeds.

Ropelato challenged five White Clouds designers to turn Musk's plans into a to-scale 3D model in 24 hours, which they achieved using computer-aided design software called SolidWorks, as well as Maya and 3DS Max Design.

Musk's Hyperloop sketches are two-dimensional, so the White Clouds designers had to turn them into 3D models by hand.

Once the 3D models were complete, the team used three different types of 3D printers to create the separate parts: the Connex 500 for the pillars that keep the tube aloft, The ProJet 3500 HDMax to print the tube itself in a clear resin, and the ZPrinter 650, which is capable of printing in different colors, for the pods and the station platform.

"It took us 21 hours from concept to final build," Ropelato told Tom's Guide. "To combine the finished three parts took five minutes. That was part of the beauty of 3D printing, allowing us to easily connect the various parts."

Musk describes the Hyperloop as a "fifth mode of transportation" after planes, trains, cars and boats. He first mentioned his idea for safe, cheap, high-speed mass transit in 2012, and since the designs were posted on Aug. 12, they've been both highly praised and scathingly critiqued.

Did 3D printing the Hyperloop give the White Clouds team any unique insight into whether the Hyperloop is a feasible mode of public transit?
"When you build a scale model, it really brings into perspective how large this project really is," Ropelato said. "We are excited to see if Elon's project will be given its due consideration."

Email jscharr@techmedianetwork.com or follow her @JillScharr. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

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  • -8 Hide
    IndignantSkeptic , August 20, 2013 12:04 PM
    By the time any super fast people transporter is ready, we will probably have the technology to virtually teleport people anywhere in virtuality instead of reality. In other words, people will no longer need to leave their house. Goods do not need to be transported at super high speed because goods are not sentient and therefore do not get bored on long trips.
  • 1 Hide
    milktea , August 20, 2013 12:22 PM
    Communications and Transportations are important to our infrastructure. Good infrastructure is necessary for the growth of society.
    Elon Musk got all the things Right! Tesla is a good investment looking into the future.
  • 5 Hide
    GoldenI , August 20, 2013 12:35 PM
    Not sure if I particularly agree with your comment, Skeptic. I believe that a hyperloop is much more plausible than a device that can de-materialize an individual, and then have them re-materialize in a different location thousands of miles away.
  • -4 Hide
    GoldenI , August 20, 2013 12:36 PM
    Not sure if I particularly agree with your comment, Skeptic. I believe that a hyperloop is much more plausible than a device that can de-materialize an individual, and then have them re-materialize in a different location thousands of miles away.
  • 1 Hide
    GoldenI , August 20, 2013 12:37 PM
    Please disregard my comment. I should have read that properly. My mistake.

    I agree with you.
  • 0 Hide
    popatim , August 20, 2013 1:00 PM
    Hmm. a car that seats six? Not adequate for good or mass transit by any means.
  • 0 Hide
    milktea , August 20, 2013 1:00 PM
    Skeptic >> can virtuality let you travel thousands of miles to taste gourmet food?
  • 0 Hide
    derekullo , August 20, 2013 2:00 PM
    So Elon Musk copied Futurama or Futurama copied Elon Musk ?
  • 0 Hide
    husker , August 20, 2013 2:15 PM
    Reminds me of the pneumatic tube that sends your deposit to the drive through bank teller. I bet that was his inspiration.
  • 0 Hide
    IndignantSkeptic , August 20, 2013 8:12 PM
    Goldenl, it looks like from the thumbs up that you got, and from the thumbs down I got, that many people badly misinterpreted my statement like you seem to have done initially. Teleportation of people will not be possible in reality because it will merely copy & delete rather than move people, and deleting people is not acceptable because it is murder. However in the future people will cease to live most of their lives in reality and will instead live mostly in virtualities (virtual realities) where many things including teleportation are very easily possible which we have seen from the days of Doom 1 for example.
  • 0 Hide
    agnickolov , August 21, 2013 12:43 AM
    This concept reminds me a bit of Earth's transportation system in Peter Hamilton's "The Night's Dawn" trilogy...
  • 0 Hide
    lordjakian , August 21, 2013 6:08 PM
    "Skeptic >> can virtuality let you travel thousands of miles to taste gourmet food?"

    Even in the future where some people can taste virtual gourmet food like its supposed to be, I'll get stuck with the low end sucker-with-a-wire-that-connects-to-my-USB accessory.
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