In Pictures: Designs for the World’s First 3D Printed Electric Car

US car manufacturing maverick Local Motors has launched a competition to design the first 3D printed electric vehicle, and with entries already rolling in the final design is expected to wow.

The competition, which is open for entries until 13th May, will be voted on by members of the Local Motors online community and judged by a group of experts including MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis.

The chosen design will then be 3D printed using a Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine, the first large-scale 3D printer of its kind, at September’s International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago, US.

“This vehicle may well be the coolest vehicle on the planet, at least to those of us in manufacturing technology,” said Rick Neff, manager market development for Cincinnati Inc, the company providing the BAAM machine.

With over $10,000 in prize money, the competition has already attracted some strong contestants, with designs ranging from sophisticated but traditional to cool and zany. Here we profile some of our favourites from the entries so far.

Spider Net by Chavito

This design is still in progress, but is shaping up to be pretty cool. According to car buffs in the Local Motors online community, the design could provide good structural strength while keeping the overall weight low.

View full entry.

Lithos by Lulu


Taking inspiration from classic racing cars, this design uses opposing tapered elements to crate a rigid triangulated overall structure. Some areas of the vehicle are kept soft to provide added protection if an impact occurs.

View full entry.

3D Printed City Car by Vasilatos Ianis


With a design that resembles a mashup between a Borderlands Outrunner and a Tron bike, this dune buggy-style vehicle is our favourite of the entries so far. The designer, Vasilatos Ianis, has already submitted another more steampunky design, so we’re expecting to see his name somewhere amongst the winners.

View full entry.

Hantig Concept by Gabriel Hantig


Intended to be manufactured from just three components, this design forgoes doors in favour of a sleek, unbroken body complete with seats. With a front that some commenters have compared to designs by legendary Italian car design firm Pininfarina, this vehicle ties traditional design with a modern finish.

View full entry.

 3DPCarXperiment by Braunarsch


Another work in progress, this design is interesting because it plays up the 3D printed aspect by incorporating the characteristic additive lines into the vehicle’s finish. The vehicle has a look that is quite reminiscent of a bumper car, so we’re interested to see how this design progresses.

View full entry.

Self-Healing Plastics: Materials that Can Restore Their Molecular Structure

Plastics have found their way into an incredible number of items in our lives, from cars and gadget cases to furniture and accessories, but they have traditionally been seen as ‘cheap’ materials because of their easy-to-scratch finish.

This could soon be changing, as scientists from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a way of creating plastics with a built-in self-healing method to repair cracks, scratches and other damage.

The molecules in the plastic are linked together by a reversible chemical reaction, turning them into something called a switchable network that can be broken down into its constituent materials and then reassembled again.


This process can be initiated just by using heat, light or a chemical substance, making it a straightforward method for use in non-lab situations.

“Our method does not need any catalyst, no additive is required,” said KIT group leader Professor Christopher Barner-Kowollik.

Not all plastics can be used, but in a press release KIT confirmed that the “self-healing properties can be transferred to a large range of plastics known”. Of those, healing can be triggered within a very short time at temperatures between 50°C to 120°C.

Most of the research has been to speed up the time healing takes and to confirm that the plastic’s original strength and tension could be completely restored. In some instances the team has been able to improve material strength with the process.

“We succeeded in demonstrating that test specimens after first healing were bound even more strongly than before,” said Barner-Kowollik.

The technology can also be used to mould plastics, which could potentially make it a rival for 3D printing – the scientists have suggested that the technology could be used to produce reinforced plastic components for aircrafts and vehicles.


The technology could turn plastic into a far more valuable and durable material – it would no longer be so firmly associated with a throwaway culture if it could heal itself, which could result in less waste from plastics.

One of the best potential applications of this would be for vehicle chassis – scratches and chips could be fixed within seconds using just a hairdryer.

Similarly, phone cases, apparel and wearables could all benefit – being able to easily heal your product would keep it looking new long after it had been bought, which could again result in a less throwaway approach to these gadgets and items.

Inline images courtesy of Esther Simpson and Henning Mühlinghaus.