Scaled Ltd, a UK firm specializing in large format 3D printing via a robotic extrusion process, unveiled its Project Chamaleon 3D printed electric vehicle. The company started working on the Chamaleon less than half a year ago, aiming to demonstrate how the way vehicles are manufactured can be revolutionized through AM.
The Chameleon vehicle embodies a range of innovative strategies and philosophies. The vehicle uses high-end 3D printed thermoplastics from LEHVOSS for the chassis, but the process has been designed to be as sustainable as possible. Scaled have thus also made use of recycled plastics and aimed for a 1:1 weight to payload ratio of just over 100 kg to make it as efficient as possible. The designers also used new and emerging design techniques such as stochastic topology optimization to remove redundant material, and above they utilized a “factory in a box” approach, producing the entire vehicle on a single manufacturing cell.
The Project Chameleon Platform is a manufacturing cell for producing many different types of vehicles using the same hardware and software tool. Like the reptile it is named after, which adapts its color to match the surroundings, the Chameleon Platform makes vehicles specifically adapted to their environment. The customer specifies their requirements and receives a vehicle designed to efficiently meet its task.
The Scaled vehicle proves that the game changes when you take 3D printing to this level: parts can be made bigger, stronger and faster. The cost of the entire vehicle is less than the cost of a single body panel on some vehicles.
Working with partners Rafinex, Scaled incorporated topology optimized design into Chameleon. The software that Rafinex developed is stochastic, meaning that it tests many random variations in the loading conditions before delivering a final optimized structural design. This process ensures the design is robust – one more suited to real-world conditions where impacts and loads never quite happen as planned.
The Scaled team believes that moving away from mass production to mass customization, specialization becomes affordable. This paradigm shift is possible by being able to prototype and manufacture using the same technology: large scale 3D printing. The design and manufacture of a first production vehicle by these methods is more cost-effective than traditional methods. Expensive, specialized production equipment and tools are no longer needed, there is no requirement for assembly lines – every vehicle variant can be produced in a single, versatile manufacturing cell. Lead times are only limited by the speed at which a vehicle can be printed.