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. 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.