Daihatsu Begins Rollout of Cars Customized with 3D Printing
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on June 21, 2016 |
The Copen Robe Roadster from Diahatsu features 3D-printed “Effect Skins” for customizing the vehicle...

3D printing has long been used in the auto industry for prototyping purposes, but it still hasn’t quite been a suitable technology for producing end parts. That doesn’t mean that manufacturers aren’t exploring the possibilities, however. Japanese auto manufacturer Daihatsu, for instance, believes that 3D printing may be the perfect method for producing custom parts for the Copen Robe Roadster.

3D-printed Effect Skins allow drivers to customize the exterior of their cars. (Image courtesy of Stratasys.)
3D-printed Effect Skins allow drivers to customize the exterior of their cars. (Image courtesy of Stratasys.)

A convertible roadster will likely appeal to those interested in a sporty, flashy ride—perhaps the type that might customize their cars with spoilers, decals and other secondary auto accessories. In designing the Copen Robe Roadster, Daihatsu decided to further appeal to this market by featuring built-in customization in the form of 3D-printed “Effect Skins.”

Designed in over 12 different patterns and 10 different colors, Daihatsu Effect Skins are textural details that are affixed to the car’s exterior for added personality. In addition to, say, choosing the car’s paint color or interior material, customers will be able to choose to have these skins added to the body of their roadsters.

A Daihatsu employee examines a 3D-printed Effect Skin made with a Fortus 450mc 3D printer. (Image courtesy of Stratasys.)
A Daihatsu employee examines a 3D-printed Effect Skin made with a Fortus 450mc 3D printer. (Image courtesy of Stratasys.)

The skins are 3D printed using the Stratasys Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) platform from ASA thermoplastic. ASA, in particular, was chosen for its mechanical strength, while its UV stability prevents the material’s color from fading when exposed to sunlight.

By relying on 3D printing technology, as outlined in the video above, Daihatsu is not only able to create custom parts on the fly, but the artists chosen to oversee the Effects Skin concepts, designer Kota Nezu and 3D modeling artist Junjie Sun, were able to prototype their designs with a short turnaround time. Nezu, of Znug Design, elaborated, “This project would not have been possible with traditional manufacturing or tooling methods.”

Osamu Fujishita, general manager of the Corporate Planning Department at the Brand DNA Office for Daihatsu, added, “What would have taken two to three months to develop can now be produced in two weeks.”

With plans to commercialize in 2017, Daihatsu is currently testing the Effect Skin project in select markets. While Copen Robe Roadsters may hit highways with custom 3D-printed details next year, Local Motors will also be sending 3D-printed vehicles onto the streets in 2017. In the short term, these projects represent the use of 3D printing to produce automotive end parts. In the long term, however, they may just be early indicators of a future in which all cars can be customized with 3D printing.

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