3D printing began as the geekiest, moonshot-iest of activities. As scale and quality have improved, though, people and businesses in the mainstream have become excited by the very real possibilities offered by 3D printers.
The auto industry has been particularly intrigued. First came the restorers, eager to print out replacement parts for vintage rides. Automakers followed suit, with established outfits like Ford using 3D printers to create prototypes of future models. Suppliers sprung up, too, hoping to meet the growing demand for high-tech parts, like those made of carbon fiber.
Last fall, the world got its first glimpse of a vehicle that had been (mostly) created by a 3D printer. Local Motors' all-electric "Strati" model took 44 hours to create, and its speed topped out at 50 mph, but it was a start. The Strati should be produced in limited numbers this year, with a MSRP likely to fall between $18,000 and $30,000.
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Hot on Local Motors' heels, China's Sanya Si Hai firm has now unveiled its own 3D printed vehicle: the Shuya.
Like the Strati, the Shuya looks like a cross between a go-cart and a roadster. (Admittedly, the Shuya seems much closer to a legit car, though the design is a little "Inspector Gadget" for most tastes.) Also like the Strati, the Shuya is electric, and makes use of a non-3D printed electrical system. However, the Shuya's top speed is only half the Strati's: just 25 mph. The Shuya also took significantly longer to print and assemble: five days.
If and when the Shuya enters production, though, it will almost certainly beat the Strati, hands-down. The Shuya cost just $1,770 to create, including materials, non-3D printed components, and labor.
Is this the future of the auto industry -- 3D-printed, all-electric automobiles? It's far too early to say, but the process definitely has some advantages, not least of which is the quick turnaround time for prototypes.
Have a look at the video above and share your thoughts about the Shuya -- and 3D printing in general -- in the comments below.