Matthew Jones23 September 2011

This car has been built using a printer

A PRINTER! We are officially in the future: meet the Urbee

You remember that giant beige screeching thing in the corner you had to buy special paper for and never worked properly? We bet you never looked at it and thought "I could make a car come out of that one day".

Jim Kor did. He's the project leader of Urbee - the globular thing in the pictures - that's just been unveiled at the TEDxWinnipeg technology conference, Canada. And, as well as using electric motors and a small ethanol-powered engine (which combine to return 200mpg), the body panels are constructed using a special 3D printer. You send it a file and a very complicated box will produce it in three glorious dimensions.

Aside from the thrillingly futuristic tech, there is another reason this is GOOD NEWS. Because while the printing work's currently undertaken by Minneapolis-based Stratasys, the Urbee could theoretically be partly manufactured anywhere with a 3D printer and an internet connection. This would cut out emissionsy - and expensive - shipping and haulage. Which would leave more fuel to used in the noble pursuit of driving and having fun.

Currently, only the composite panels are printed, but Jim told the BBC he hopes other parts would be produced this way in future:

"This process could revolutionise how we make things. It has certainly changed my way of thinking about manufacturing,"

Underneath that inkjet shell there's a more traditional stainless steel chassis with low resistance tyres. The baby one-pot ethanol engine makes 8bhp and electric drive's supplemented by a set of optional solar panels on the roof. Better suited to California than Chipping Norton, then.

Estimated prices range from $10,000 (£6,500) to $50,000 (£33,000) depending on whether the Urbee can achieve mass production.

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