Apr 28, 2016 | By Kira

Autonomous driving is shaping up to be one of the great automotive innovations of our generation, but just what shape is it taking, exactly? For us city-dwellers, driverless cars are marketed as a way to resolve the most frustrating of commuter issues, from endless traffic congestion to finding a parking spot that’s not five miles from where you actually want to be.

But what would driverless cars look like if, instead of just trying to fix the negative aspects of driving, we used them to enhance the sense of freedom, exploration, and adventure that comes with any great, cross-country road trip?

That is exactly the question Honda sought to answer in “Honda. Great Journey,” a creative, whimsical, and inspiring brand campaign, brought to life by 3D printing technology.

Inviting us to think outside of the parking lot in terms of driverless cars, Honda teamed up with design studios Map and Mori, Inc., as well as 3D printing and prototyping firm Ogle. Together, they designed and 3D printed seven unique and incredibly detailed concept cars that showcase Honda’s technological advancements while taking us on a journey from Kenya to Brazil.

The exact route is quite symbolic, retracing the one of the longest routes of human migration, which happens to cross over seven distinct and treacherous terrains, including deserts, mountains, water and the icey tundra. While Map and Mori were originally commissioned to design a single shape-shifting car that could somehow traverse all of these, they finally settled on designing seven individual ones with completely tailored features to enhance and elevate the driver’s experience through each.

Crucially, these cars aren’t just about getting you from point A to point B. As the old expression goes, it’s the (self-driving) journey that matters. Thus, the Tunda Sled doesn’t just feature a pack of electric Honda drones that can sense cracks in the ice, it also features a luxurious hot tub and built-in telescope for enjoying the beautiful, unpolluted night sky.

While Map and Mori came up with these dreamy design concepts, it was up to UK-based firm Ogle to 3D print them into reality. Even though the firm specializes in professional model-making and rapid prototyping, this was no easy task.

“The accuracy demanded of our people and machines was significant,” said Dave Bennion, Marketing and Sales Director at Ogle. “To achieve the required paint finishes and component parts for the models, there was no room for error. Each finish had to be executed to perfection, resulting in a seamless look when being filmed.”

First, each concept car model was scaled down from 1:1 to just 1:24—the size of a standard Hot Wheels toy. Yet despite that dramatic size difference, they were expected to retain the full amount of detail and functionality that a full size car model would.

To achieve highest level of detail possible, Ogle used several SLA 3D printer machines. Compared to FDM, stereolithography 3D printing is known for providing smoother surface finishes and more professional quality overall.

“We’ve got a few options on the machine we choose to build the parts on, including: iPro 8000, SLA 3500 and two SLA Vipers. Parts were made using all the machines, for different reasons including speed and accuracy,” explained Dave Foster, Ogle’s SLA technician who boasts 25 years of experience in the field. “Our machines can meet an accuracy of ±0.1 mm per 100 mm. This precision was so important for the project in assembling the parts and also limiting post-production time in the workshop.”

The amount of work that went into each and every 3D printed model is astounding, from the CAD design to 3D printing to the final assembly and hand-painting.

For example, even with Ogle’s professional SLA 3D printers, some decorative parts were still too small to print, and had to shaped by hand using stainless steel and copper wire.

The paint team also had to devise several innovative strategies to recreate realistic finishes, from the snow effect on the Tundra’s tires to a mesh-like, hammock finish on the Island Hopper that required sourcing multiple net fabrics and lacquering the SLA parts. After final assembly, the 3D printed car models were tested extensively to make sure that every moving part would still work in its designated terrain.

To capture the extent of Honda, Map, Mori and Ogle’s dedication, be sure to watch the “Honda. Great Journey” video below.

It’s as technically impressive as it is fun and whimsical—if Wes Anderson were asked to design the cars of the future, this is what he might have come up with. What I love most is that, despite how futuristic these cars are, they still manage to retain the retro-fun vibe of classic 1950’s and 60’s Honda camper vans, adding a much-needed element of nostalgia and comfort to these otherwise alien concept cars.

While several auto giants have recently revealed their own visions for the future of 3D printed cars, from BMW’s 3D printed shape-shifter to Buick’s luxury Avista, Honda is the first to explore the truly adventurous angle of driverless cars, and how they might change the very nature of land travel.

Better yet, Honda plans to have its first driverless vehicles hit the pavement as early as 2020. Road trip, anyone?



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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