Lawnmower shows way for 3D cars
Unique, once-off vehicles instead of mass produced cars for future petrolheads
IN 2013, I put my head on the block with a sci-fi prediction that our children’s children will not buy mass-produced cars like we all do.
Instead, those few grandkids who are petrolheads will just order the four elements to assemble their own unique vehicle. These will be:
• A roll cage with the required space;
• a navigation/steering system to suit their budget;
• a power source that will range from hub-wheel motors to tiny rotary petrol engines; and
• bespoke wheels and panels to glue, bolt or snap on to the roll cage to make the cars as individual as each person.
While the low oil price casts doubts on my futurologic abilities (I predicted politics will see us pay R14/litre this year), January did see three more tiny steps towards my sci-fi future for cars.
The first was the roll cage which Arial has designed for its new Atom Nomad. In shape it follows the lines of the crash cage which Yamaha has adapted for Durban old-boy Gordon Murray’s City Car.
The second is Spiras4You trikes, whose foam-clad vehicles the Chinese company is exhibiting in Detroit next week. (Read more about these floating, arse-end-parking trikes overleaf).
The third step was an unassuming, but historic lawnmower. This is the world’s first 3D-printed lawnmower, produced in Kempton Park by engineering inventor Hans Fouche.
Fouche is better known for his 3D-printed chocolates, but as a retired Formula 1 chief aerodynamicist, he had shaped the foils of among others the Lola and Brabham cars. He agrees wholeheartedly with my prediction of our future roads seeing more unique cars.
Fouche told Wheels he is a 3D-printing pioneer, having used super-glue and compressed air to print parts for wind tunnel testing in the 1980s. “We called it rapid prototyping back then.”
Asked how far into the future he thought 3D-printed cars were, he cited the car which U.S. design studio Local Motors had 3D-printed and driven since September last year, adding he could start 3D-printing such a car today, using the large 3D printer he has built in his garage. “All we need is a sponsor.”
To show the speed and strength of his printing, Fouche had 3D-printed the wheels and body of a lawnmower — which he called the Cheetah — in nine hours. He has since bolted the motor and handles of his electric mower onto the still-unfinished reams of extruded plastic and used it to trim the grass in his backyard.
While the technology already allows 3D-printed cars, Fouche cautions 3D-printing cannot yet compete with the low unit costs of mass production.
Despite his modifications to a Rapman 3D printer, which enables him to melt and extrude plastic granules through a 3 mm nozzle to print a one-metre cube 10 times cheaper than a normal desk 3D-printer can, his Cheetah lawnmower will still cost over R116 000.
Which is why, between dabbling with the future on his lawn, Fouche focuses on churning out unique chocolate pieces in his company Fouche Chocolates, including very tasty NGK sparkplugs made from Belgium chocolate. (More on that on fouchechocolates.co.za)
At over R116 000, this is South Africa’s most expensive lawnmower, 3D-printed by engineering inventor Hans Fouche (inset).