We’re not surprised to see a car manufacturer using 3D-printing technology, but we think this may be the first time we’ve heard of 3D-prints going into production vehicles. You’ve likely heard of Christian von Koenigsegg’s cars if you’re a fan of BBC’s Top Gear, where the hypercar screams its way into the leading lap times.
Now it seems the Swedish car manufacturer has integrated 3D printing and scanning into the design process. Christian himself explains the benefits of both for iterative design: they roughed out a chair, adjusting it as they went until it was about the right shape and was comfortable. They then used a laser scanner to bring it into a CAD file, which significantly accelerated the production process. He’s also got some examples of brake pedals printed from ABS—they normally machine them out of aluminum—to test the fits and the feeling. They make adjustments as necessary to the prints, sometimes carving them up by hand, then break out the laser scanner again to capture any modifications, bring it back to CAD, and reprint the model.
Interestingly, they’ve been printing some bits and pieces for production cars out of ABS for a few years. Considering the low volume they are working with, it makes sense. Videos and more info after the jump.
The first video shows a Dimension 1200es—a $30k printer—toiling away in the background, presumably cranking out some of their ABS test pieces. A second video describes another 3D-printed build, this time with metal, to construct a 2-phase turbocharger. The custom turbo has two chambers that twist around each other, with flexible walls that bend to optimize flow. Koenigsegg claims that they could have cast it with a lot of trial and error, but that 3D-printing the complex shapes was simply faster and easier. They’re printing the moving parts in place internally so they don’t have to assemble it. Even the threads to mount the turbo are printed, so a near-finished turbocharger rolls out of the printer ready to bolt on.