Set to premiere at the CES Show on January 7th 2020 in Las Vegas, MetroSnap is a first-of-its-kind concept vehicle created to showcase the next generation of automated electric automobiles for city life. Developed by Swiss company Rinspeed, the electric vehicle represents an evolution in the development of sustainable transport.
Today, 3D printing and additive manufacturing leader, Stratasys, reveals how 3D printing played a key role in the design and manufacture of the vehicle in order to meet the tight production schedule of the launch. In fact, over 30 interior and exterior parts were customized using both Stratasys’ FDM and PolyJet technologies, including everything from interior consoles, display frames, plug socket fixtures and air vents, right through to the lidar screens and licence plate on the exterior.
Frank M. Rinderknecht, Founder of Rinspeed, comments: “Using Stratasys 3D printing, we were able to design and manufacture customized parts of the MetroSnap in very little time, enabling us to accelerate the design of the vehicle and overcome the limitations of traditional manufacturing during production. For a project such as this, where every element was newly designed and tested, and the launch timeframe is short, having an alternative to traditional manufacturing that can offer you flexibility in design and production is essential. It’s fair to say that without access to Stratasys’ technology, the customized manufacture of this vehicle would simply not have been possible.”
Featuring a one-off customized design, the MetroSnap houses a unique swapping system inspired by aviation, which sees a ‘Pod’ and ‘Skateboard’ chassis operate on split batteries. This enables the Skateboard to automatically load Pods as required, with each Pod offering a different service to the public – whether that be a taxi pick-up, parcel collection station or even a mini supermarket.
During the development of the Pod, the team leveraged Stratasys FDM additive manufacturing to 3D print bespoke parts that were not only fit-for-function, but importantly had the material properties required for an end-use automotive environment. One such example is the middle console of the Pod, which needs to be durable yet lightweight in order to maximize fuel and speed efficiencies. To achieve a high stiffness-to-weight ratio and structural strength, the part was 3D printed in Nylon12CF material, which combines both carbon-fiber and Nylon 12.
Another example can be seen on the outside of the Pod, where Stratasys’ ASA material was used to 3D print sensor covers able to perform like a traditionally manufactured version, specifically offering advanced properties to withstand extreme weather conditions and UV-radiation. The parts were printed in a matter of hours, saving the project valuable production time compared to traditional methods or lengthy post-processing.
For the vehicle interior, Stratasys’ newly-launched J850 3D Printer was used, offering Rinspeed unique multi-material, full Pantone-validated color 3D printing capabilities. This was integral in being able to quickly produce ultra-realistic interior parts that closely matched the strict design criteria of the MetroSnap, both in terms of customized ergonomic shapes and color aesthetics. For example, the J850 was utilized to 3D print grey covers for charging plugs as well as the vehicle’s white dashboard air vents, which enabled the team to color match and manufacture in rapid times – another crucial aspect in accelerating the overall design and development of the vehicle in time for the launch.
Dominik Mueller, Strategic Account Manager at Stratasys, comments: “It is great to see how 3D printing can really offer value in this type of production project, significantly cutting lead times and delivering high quality customized parts. Rapid development in hardware and materials across both of our core technologies have been exemplified during this project, offering the manufacturers the ability to transform the design and development process of vehicles and opening the door to even further customization in production.
“MetroSnap perfectly encapsulates what the future of transport can look like and we’re proud to have been able to support Rinspeed in bringing its concept to fruition at CES.”