Sep 15, 2014 | By Alec

As 3D printing enthusiasts the world over are already experiencing, this fun desktop technology has an ever growing number of applications, both on a professional and personal level. This is also felt in Japan, where a particularly popular hobby – 4 wheel drive racing – is being transformed by the many new possibilities 3D printing offers. This was particularly evident at a fun event in Tokyo on Sunday, August 31, organized by the guys behind FabCafe Shibuya.

Open to fans of all ages, they organized a Mini 4WD Tournament at the Kashiwanoha KOIL building, an innovation lab in the center of Tokyo. More than 60 4WD fans – children, parents, professional car designers – gathered there to race their miniature cars and compete for a 3D printed trophy developed by i.materialise and printed in polyamide. Racing continued throughout the day, amidst rising excitement. And after three nerve racking tournaments, the Honda Design team proved victorious and claimed the title of Grand Champion.

These battery-powered, miniature 4 wheel drive racing cars have been particularly popular throughout Japan since the 1980s. Tinkering with their mechanics and customizing their bumpers, tires and wheels is very popular amongst multiple generations. Unlike the 'slot cars' known in the US, these 'Mini Yonku' cars are capable of driving across a track with a remote control. Tinkering with their mechanics and customizing their bumpers, tires and wheels is very popular amongst multiple generations. It's a part of normal childhoods in Japan, but like so many hobbies, many enthusiasts refuse to let go. Tournaments, like this one held by the FabCafe, have proven to be very popular.

Due to their size and the many plastic components that are included, these Mini Yonku cars can easily be built or customized with 3D printing, CAD software and laser cutting. It should therefore not be surprising that many of the participants used 3D printing in an attempt to make their cars the quickest, lightest or coolest.

As can be seen in the pictures, the weirdest (and coolest) entry was made by the team from a rather well-known company: Stratasys. Their entry consisted of a 3D printed tank, with a figurine representing their CEO on the top of it. We can only suspect that they neglected speed in exchange for attention. In stark contrast to this entry, stood a shark-like car that was built to be as quick and efficient as possible.

To deal with these varying levels of customization, the organisers created three different tournaments, one for each level of sophistication. This way, children could experience the exhilaration without being utterly outclassed by professional car designers. The beginners group could even join a workshop on 3D printing and customization. This way, everyone could potentially lay claim to one of the cool 3D printed trophies.

Organisers FabCafe Shibuya is an excellent example of a company building up on the popularity of 3D printing and laser cutting. Inspired by the maker movement, they started their business in 2002 in Shibuya, Tokyo. At this makers cafe, enthusiasts can visit for both coffee, company and inspiration. They also provide a community space for visitors to use on-site 3D printers and laser cutters, and offer expert to advise to anyone looking for it. As the cafe's CEO explained, the 4WD enthusiasts are particularly well represented among their visitors. 'Mini 4WD hobbyists and designers can create a synergy together to drive the Japanese Makers community'.

It's therefore hardly surprising that the next edition of the Mine 4WD Cup is already scheduled. All hobbyists and racing enthusiasts are invited to attend in March 2015. And anyone looking to test-run their miniature cars are more than welcome at the FabCafe Shibuya.


Source: i.materialise

Posted in 3D Printing Events

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