Honda’s Kabuku is a lil’ van with big plans, and most of its pan­els are 3D-printed.

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - STU ROBARTS

WHERE 3D print­ing ve­hi­cles is con­cerned, Lo­cal Mo­tors and their Olli bus get most of the head­lines, but that’s not to say oth­ers aren’t dab­bling with the tech­nol­ogy.

Last week, Honda and Kabuku un­veiled a cus­tom-de­signed elec­tric ve­hi­cle for mak­ing de­liv­er­ies, the body pan­els of which have been 3D-printed.

The mi­cro com­muter was cre­ated for con­fec­tionery firm Toshi­maya, which needed a ve­hi­cle it could use for short­bread de­liv­er­ies around its home­town of Ka­makura in Ja­pan and on which ad­ver­tise­ments could be dis­played. It was also nec­es­sary that the ve­hi­cle be able to ne­go­ti­ate Ka­makura’s nar­row roads.

Work­ing with dig­i­tal fab­ri­ca­tion out­fit Kabuku, Honda de­vel­oped the de­liv­ery ve­hi­cle over the course of about two months. It is based on the mi­cro com­muter concept, which was first shown off in 2011, and em­ploys Honda’s Vari­able De­sign Plat­form. This sees key com­po­nents — like the bat­tery, mo­tor and con­trol unit — po­si­tioned to­gether so that they can be eas­ily used as the ba­sis for other ve­hi­cles. The chas­sis, mean­while, is con­structed from a rigid light­weight pipe frame struc­ture.

Where the Mi­cro Com­muter de­liv­ery ve­hi­cle dif­fers from its fore­bears is the pro­vi­sion of space in the rear for trans­port­ing pro­duce. This is in place of the two rear seats and means that the only seat in the ve­hi­cle is for the cen­trally-po­si­tioned driver. The ve­hi­cle also makes use of Kabuku’s “Rinkak Mass Cus­tomi­sa­tion So­lu­tions”, which pro­vide rapid 3D de­sign, mold-less 3D print­ing and a net­work of fac­to­ries for fab­ri­ca­tion.

The 3D print­ing is used to pro­duce the ve­hi­cle’s ex­te­rior pan­els, mak­ing it rel­a­tively quick and straight­for­ward to cus­tomise them as re­quired.

Un­der the hood is an 11 kW elec­tric mo­tor that gives the mi­cro com­muter a top speed of 70 km/h and a range of around 80 km.

Ac­cord­ing to Honda, the bat­tery can be charged in un­der three hours at AC 200 Volt or un­der seven hours at AC 100 Volt.

The Mi­cro Com­muter de­liv­ery ve­hi­cle was demon­strated last week at the Com­bined Ex­hi­bi­tion of Ad­vanced Tech­nolo­gies (Ceatec) IT and elec­tron­ics trade show in Ja­pan. — New At­las.

PHOTO: HONDA

PHOTO: HONDA

The Honda Kabuku (inset) is a lit­tle van with big plans for fu­ture car as­sem­bly, with 3D-printed parts fit­ted around a roll cage in small, lo­cal fac­to­ries, just like we have been pre­dict­ing at Wheels since 2012.

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