Will 3-D Printed Cars Kill Jobs?


You won't need 3-D glasses to navigate this sweet ride—but how could printed cars change manufacturing?

test drive 3d printed car

Organs. Weapons. The sheer breadth of stuff capable of being 3-D printed at this point is pretty dumbfounding. Another to add to that mix? 3-D printed cars. That’s right: Two companies from Arizona and California are the first to debut information on these high-tech whips that are not only expanding the tech industry but are also bringing some major love to mother earth. San Francisco based company Divergent Microfactories recently debuted what they are calling not only an eco-friendly car but “the world’s first 3-D printed super car”. The company explained to USA today the nuts and bolts of how this super car is benefitting our planet. “It’s eco-friendly because it uses a combination of aluminum joints and carbon fiber tubing to make the chassis in minutes, using less material. It is envisioned as having a 700-horsepower engine that uses either compressed natural gas or gasoline. Weighing only 1,400 pounds, it would be capable of zero to 60 mile-per-hour speeds in about two seconds.”

These printed cars weigh only 1,400 pounds.

As for how many of these will be in production? The company has reported that for now, they are planning on making a specific number of them exclusively in their own plant. Kevin Czinger, CEO of Divergent Microfactories said, “We’ve developed a sustainable path forward for the car industry that we believe will result in a renaissance in car manufacturing, with innovative, eco-friendly cars like Blade being designed and built in microfactories around the world.” Czinger added that the goal is to create world-wide teams that could build the supercar in their own microfactories.

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Local Motors’ Efforts

Arizona based company Local Motors is the other company paving the way for this revolutionary invention. Similar to Divergent Microfactories, Local Motors is planning to use microfactories to build their version of these super cars as well. CNBC explained that “these microfactories are different from the traditional factories because a traditional automobile is put together one piece at a time in an assembly line in a plant that could possibly cost around $1 billion. Local Motors is planning to set up a series of microfactories at a fraction of the size and cost.” Company CEO and co-founder John Rogers Jr. explained that “Micro-factories are a great counterpoint because they employ an economy of scope by taking advantage of low-cost tooling and co-creation, resulting in the ability to get products to market faster and in less time while using less capital to find a winning concept.”

The cars are built at micro factories—at a fraction of the cost.

Local Motors publicly demonstrated their concept with a prototype at the Detroit Auto Show in January. Beyond the electric power train, this revolutionary vehicle barely had 50 individual parts. Rogers told USA Today that “he plans to make 3D-printed cars made of carbon-fiber reinforced ABS plastic costing from $18,000 to $30,000. The roofless version he was showing, looking a bit like a carbon-fiber dune buggy, had 50 parts, instead of the thousands in modern cars.”
There are, however, several different forms of 3-D printing, the most common being a laser to form various materials. Local Motors uses a different process that builds up objects essentially one pixel at a time. “If I want this car to be 10 percent bigger, I just click a button,” Rogers explained.

Could 3-D Cars Kill Jobs?

The truth is, we’re still a long ways off from printed cars posing any potential harm to manufacturing jobs. Technically speaking, Local Motors’ car is a “neighborhood electrical vehicle,” according to The New York Times. (Aka, a really nice golf cart.) The other truth, though, is that technology is shifting quickly, and it is possible that we could someday be driving cars that require a lot fewer resources to create, both machine-wise and people-wise.

What are your thoughts on these super-cars? Are you planning on purchasing one when they are open to the public? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Roman

    Great topic! Please write more on this, and specifically on how this would help bring manufacturing back to USA.