3D printing: Print my ride

A mass-market carmaker starts customising vehicles individually.

Another milestone has been passed in the adoption of additive manufacturing, popularly known as 3D printing.

Daihatsu, a Japanese manufacturer of small cars and a subsidiary of Toyota, an industry giant, announced on June 20th that it would begin offering car buyers the opportunity to customise their vehicles with 3D-printed parts.

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This brings to drivers with more modest budgets the kind of individual tailoring of vehicles hitherto restricted to the luxury limousines and sports cars of the super-rich.

The service is available only to buyers of the Daihatsu Copen, a tiny convertible two-seater.

Customers ordering this car from their local dealer can choose one of 15 “effect skins”, decorative panels embellished with intricate patterns in ten different colours.

The buyers can then use a website to tinker with the designs further to create exactly the look they want.

The skins are printed in a thermoplastic material using additive-manufacturing machines from Stratasys, an American company.

The results are then stuck on the front and rear body panels.

Copen buyers will like selecting unique add-ons rather than choosing from a list of standard accessories, reckons Osamu Fujishita of Daihatsu.

The company is testing the service in a few markets but plans to make it widely available by early 2017.

Other carmakers are watching closely.