Meet Strati. Strati does 40mph powered by a Renault Twizy drivetrain. You are thinking 'that can't hold a candle to the innovations led by Tesla'.
But this is not about an electric car. This is about the future of manufacturing.
Strati materialized out of 15% carbon-reinforced ABS thermoplastic in a record 44 hours, under the very eyes of attendees at this year's International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS). The car was printed in 212 layers on a Big Area Additive Manufacturing CI 3D printer.
The design was selected in a competition, won by Michele Anoè of Turin, Italy. Anoè told an Italian blog dedicated to startups: "I would like them to speak of my victory as a stimulus to change things in this country (Italy)."
And change things it will. People are already talking about machines built in micro-factories, locally sourced and strengthening local employment. This will raise questions about how the environmental footprint of small series manufacturing compares to current manufacturing technologies. Regulations will have to catch up with the pace of change: can we achieve safety standards more cost effectively, to liberate the market from mass manufacturing?
Strati's body is one contiguous piece, not the usual attempt to mimic the panels and parts that compose a conventional car. Altogether, the car consists of only 40 parts. This has an interesting side effect: a quiet ride.
After the Strati was finished "printing", it took one day to mill the rough form and 2 days to assemble the parts into a working vehicle, which triumphantly drove through the crowds of journalists and onlookers enjoying a unique moment in the history of manufacturing.
It may take time before additive assembly designs can top the accessibility of mass market electric car, but they are sure to occupy a unique niche in the story of how the electric car develops.
Whether additive manufacturing becomes a force for sustainability or just another means of pumping out consumer eye candy at an ever faster rate remains to be seen. Could Strati augur a return to a more artisanal, small series form of manufacturing? Will we reduce waste with print-on-demand processes or find ourselves buried in a sea of layered plastic trash? The answer to those questions are in our hands. Strati represents one major step in the demonstration of a disruptive new technology. How we use that technology is up to us.