3D-printed car parts are now a real thing

Daihatsu teams up with 3D printing company Stratasys for custom panels

Until now, 3D printing car parts has been somewhat of a homebrew affair. That's changing, as one automaker will soon begin offering custom-printed pieces for vehicle personalization. Daihatsu is pairing with 3D printing company Stratasys and industrial designers from Znug Design to bring customers new body panels for its adorable Copen model.

The Copen is a small two-seat roadster-coupe that has swappable body panels from the factory, so changing them for 3D-printed versions should be relatively easy. Although this specific car is not sold in the US, it's easy to see how 3D printing could catch on here for all sorts of vehicle customization.

3D-printed Daihatsu Copen parts

The 3D parts are called "Effect Skins," and there is a reasonably wide variety of different combinations: 15 geometric and organic patterns available in 10 different colors. They are not completely locked down by the manufacturer, either; customer modifications are possible, thanks to the flexibility of 3D printing. Using a more conventional method, manufacturing plastic body parts to customer specifications would take months, but these parts will be available in just a couple of weeks, says Osamu Fujishita from Daihatsu's Brand DNA Office.

The parts are being made available for 2017, and they are designed to dress up the Copen's fenders and front and rear bumpers. The panels are printed using Fortus Production 3D Printers with ASA thermoplastic, which resists both knocks and UV damage. The result can be a Daihatsu like no other, and it sure beats going to Pep Boys for stick-on chrome vents.

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