Recap: Automotive Additive Manufacturing in 2022

Recap: Automotive Additive Manufacturing in 2022

December 30, 2022

The automotive industry adopted additive manufacturing for the production of fixtures and assembly aids fairly quickly.

But it wasn’t until April 2014 that the idea of printing large parts of a car became a reality, with the crowdsourced design of the Strati electric vehicle by Local Motors.

In September of the same year, the car was manufactured and tested, making the Strati the world’s first 3D printed car. Or at least, the first car with a 3D printed body and structure.

At the beginning of 2022, Local Motors closed their doors for good, due to a lack of funding, ostensibly resulting from a lack of demand for their innovative designs.

But with the demise of Local Motors, other companies have risen in 2022, all using additive manufacturing for producing significant components for their vehicles.

2022 has been a good year for automotive 3D printing. Let’s take a look at the highlights.

Liux Animal

Bioplastics are great, EVs are cool, so an EV printed from bioplastics is super cool.

And that is what the Animal from Spanish startup Liux is in a nutshell.

Printed from various bioplastics, and making use of printed molds for forming the biocomposite body panels, the Animal may seem like a strange moniker for a vegan car, but with the car being capable of pushing 240 hp, it is quite the beast.

Liux chassis
Aluminum chassis, flax-fiber body, and a bunch of 3D printed bioplastics. (Image credit: Liux)

The chassis of the car is made from recycled aluminum, and the use of 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing processes has reportedly allowed the company to reduce manufacturing time by 70% and decrease the amount of raw materials needed by 25%.

The Liux Animal Habitat model with a range of 300 km will cost €39,000, and the Animal Wild model with a range of 300 km is expected to start at €45,000.

Cadillac Celestiq

Cadillac has long been known for their innovation. They were the first marque to include electric starters, first to use shatterproof safety glass and the first to power steering.

The latest innovation fest,the 2024 Cadillac Celistiq model will contain 115x 3D printed parts, making it the production car with the most 3D printed components in the world.

You can see the electric Cadillac in the image below, in all its fastback glory.

Cadillac Celestiq
Fastback Cadillac. (Image credit: Cadillac)

Whereas most cars use additive manufacturing for non-critical trim and body panels, the Celestiq uses AM for safety critical components as well.

Said critical components include seat belt guide loops as well as structural parts of the vehicle.

That’s not to say that Cadillac isn’t using AM for some fancy trim also.

The steering wheel consists of a solid chunk of 3D printed trim (seen below), and various console detailing is printed according to customer requirements.

3D printed wheel trim
3D printed wheel trim. (Image credit: Cadillac)

This luxury ride will set you back a hefty $300,000 USD (around €283,000 as of today’s exchange rate).

Automobili Estrema Fulminea

So far we have been looking at 3D printed panels/structural components, but in an ever growing EV market, there is one area that is aching for a bit of additive manufacturing love- batteries!

The Fulminea supercar from Italian auto manufacturer Automobili Estrema will be the first Italian made supercar to feature 3D printed solid state batteries from Sakku.

Batteries are the lifeblood of the EV sector, but the currently available battery technology has a few flaws, namely that they have a tendency to burst into flames.

Automobili Estrema Fulminea
Fast and light. (Image credit: Automobili Estrema)

Solid state batteries offer a solution to this problem, as they are fabricated from solid electrolytes instead of the liquid or polymer electrolytes found in traditional lithium-ion batteries.

Solid state batteries have several potential advantages over traditional lithium-ion batteries, including higher energy density, longer lifespan, and improved safety. They also have a faster charging time and can operate at a wider range of temperatures.

They are a little time consuming and expensive to manufacture using traditional means, and so one battery manufacturer in particular (Sakuu) has turned to 3D printing to produce their solid-state batteries, as we reported earlier this year.Related StorySakuu Opens Up AM Battery Gigafactory

The Swift Print solid-state battery cells from Sakuu not only have higher energy density (meaning lighter weight) but they provide higher power in bursts.

This is why the Fulminea supercar will use a hybrid battery strategy, using more typical batteries for cruising and the printed solid state batteries for bursts of power. The light weight of the batteries will keep the car at a svelte 1500kg, which is pretty light for a 2,011 hp EV.

How much will this Italian beast cost? A bargain at just $2,000,000 (€1,885,000).

What’s Next?

The year 2022 saw significant progress in the use of 3D printing in the automotive industry.

It is certain that this trend will continue and even accelerate in the coming years, as more and more car manufacturers adopt 3D printing technology in the production of their vehicles.

This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way cars are designed and manufactured, leading to more efficient and cost-effective production processes.

In particular, it is expected that the advancements made in high-end luxury car brands will eventually be incorporated into mass-produced vehicles, making 3D printing more accessible to a wider market.

Overall, it is clear that the future of the automotive industry is closely tied to the development and adoption of 3D printing technology.

2023 is going to be an interesting year.


3D Printed Wireless Sensor Devices Overview

3D Printed Wireless Sensor Devices Overview

December 26, 2022

Do you fancy printing yourself some wireless sensor devices for use in your IoT or robotics applications?

If the answer is “yes”, or even “maybe”, then we have good news for you, because some researchers at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, have just published a paper taking a look at the various methods for doing so.

The paper, which has been published in the ACS Applied Electronic Materials journal, takes a look at several different types of physical sensor including pressure, strain and temperature sensors. In addition, chemical type sensors such as biomedical and environmental sensors are examined. These sensors are intended to be used as part of wireless sensing systems such as RF and RFID tags.

As well as summarizing the various printed sensor types, the researchers examine the various types of printing methods with which you can print the various sensors.

Let’s take a look at some of them.


Mechanical pressure sensing has applications in a wide range of domains ranging from posture recognition, to monitoring pressure in aerospace vehicles, to measuring fluid tank pressurization.

Sensing mechanisms for pressure sensing include resistive or capacitive measurement methods. When pressure is applied to the sensor, the change in resistance or capacitance can be monitored wirelessly. Via experimentation, the relation between applied pressure and changes in resistance or capacitance can be monitored and used in the desired applications.

These sensors are relatively simple, requiring just a track of conductive material that changes resistance or capacitance when the force is applied.

You can see one such example in the image below, that uses copper nanowires extruded with a direct writing method onto a flexible substrate. When the pressure was applied to the sensor, the printed copper nanowires became deformed, and the contact area between the adjacent nanowire geometries increased, leading to a decrease in resistance. The resistance change was monitored in a resonant circuit and those values were recorded wirelessly.

The printing method permitted the easy fabrication of the sensors in larger quantities at low cost.

Printed copper nanowires
Printed copper nanowires, one way of printing pressure sensors. (Image credit: ACS Applied Electronic Materials)


Temperature sensing is obviously fairly important, and the ability to do it wirelessly has benefits especially in hazardous or isolated environments. One example in the paper makes use of printed dipole antennas.

By using the direct ink writing (DIW) printing method one team of researchers printed an RF dipole antenna on polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and PDMS substrate.

sensing dipole
Printed temperature sensing dipole. (Image credit: ACS Applied Electronic Materials)

They then added a temperature reading chip to the RF dipole antenna to achieve temperature measurement, which was communicated with a reader antenna. This setup was used to monitor the temperature of plant leaves (seen above).


Low cost biomedical sensors are useful, especially in these days of wearables and smart medical devices. Nobody wants to carry a heavy battery and computer around all day, afterall.

One of the printed sensors in the paper makes use of a printed RF sensor patch with multiparameter sensing. The transponder includes a miniaturized antenna for energy harvesting and communication with a remote RF interrogator, a microchip for data sampling and signal modulation, and several sensing elements.

The sensing elements are printed on a biocompatible membrane that can absorb biofluids such as sweat or drugs as they are released. The resulting epidermal wireless RF sensor can perform different sensing of local skin features such as temperature, strain, sweat loss, and pH.

Regional body temperature, strain, and pressure can also be detected as part of the mini sensor suite.

Printed multi-sensor
Printed multi-sensor suite for biomedical applications. (Image Credit: ACS Applied Electronic Materials)

The summary paper looks at multiple examples of various sensors that may be of interest to researchers, and the authors note that there are still certain limitations for the printed RF sensors.

Low conductivity of printed inks is one of the biggest hurdles. This can be overcome with post processing such as electroplating, but this must be factored in when considering the cost to benefit ratio of such things.

The researchers conclude that the optimum path for this area of research is to focus on development of highly conductive and reliable inks.


Researchers Use Twin Robots for Printing 3D Structured Electronics

Researchers Use Twin Robots for Printing 3D Structured Electronics

December 5, 2022

Engineers from Simon Fraser University, Canada have demonstrated the use of dual robotic arms for the printing of 3D structured electronics.

With one robot printing with a paste-based direct ink writing (DIW) method, and the other using FDM, the robotic arms work side by side to fabricate electronics in three dimensions.

Spontaneous Sintering

The six-axis ABB robotic arm deposited layers of PLA plastic, which formed the bulk matrix of the structure. The ABB made use of a filament extruder from Typhoon.

The media that formed the conductive tracks in the prints was made from an uncured silver paste, which was applied by another robot, a six-axis Fanuc robotic arm. The paste was printed from a Musash DIW print head fitted onto the Fanuc.

Dual robots
Dual robots, one for silver paste, one for PLA. (Image credit: Simon Fraser University)

The plastic layer was printed, and the silver paste was printed on the surface of the plastic. Additional layers of the plastic can be deposited over the silver to form functional embedded sensors and can allow the printed tracks to cross each other without intersecting.

When the heated plastic comes into contact with the extruded paste, it results in a rapid curing of the paste, which the researchers refer to as spontaneous sintering. The tracks cure with a minimum resistance of 14.5 Ω per 10 mm.

Double Robots

This extra freedom of this method enables the possibility of the fabrication of complex structural designs without supporting materials typical in FDM printing. In principle it can additionally allow for higher density circuitry which is beneficial where volumetric space is limited.

The conductivity of the silver paste was noted to be dependent on the energy transferred from the hot PLA, which in turn was determined by the FDM printing parameters. Such parameters included nozzle temperature, printing speed, and the gap between the printer head and substrate.

Spontaneous curing
Spontaneous curing of the silver paste. (Image credit: Simon Fraser University)

The lowest resistance 14.5 Ω was obtained with the highest temperature (210 °C) inside the printer head, the slowest speed (1 mm s−1), and the smallest gap (1 mm).

The double-robot team demonstrated printing of a double-helix-designed pressure sensor with inductive and capacitive sensing capabilities. In addition, a multilayered PCB was printed. The multilayered three dimensional PCB device was inter-connected to different color LEDs and powered with batteries for demonstration purposes.

helical sensor
Pressure sensing in the helical sensor. (Image credit: Simon Fraser University)

“I was intrigued by watching a dynamic scene at the automobile assembly line when I saw multiple 6-axis robots welding and arc welding in collaboration,” said Woo Soo Kim, Professor at the School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering at Simon Fraser University.

“Why not bring collaborative multi-directional robot motion to the multi-material 3d printing world? I got this idea and concept early 2020. We demonstrated this approach with the two collaborative robots for 3D printing the electronics and the three dimensional structural integration.

We are sure that collaborative robot 3D printing will open a new path for a structural integration of multi-material 3D printing technologies”

You can read the full paper, titled “3D Structural Electronics Via Multi-Directional Robot 3D Printing” in the Advanced Materials Technologies journal at this link.